Two guilty over fatal attack on stranger in street

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A MAN has been convicted of murder and a teenager of manslaughter after a senseless street attack on a grandfather who was left with fatal brain injuries.

Liam Matthew Wyard, 20, was unanimously found guilty by a jury yesterday of murdering Keith Wright, 50, who was left fighting for his life after the horrific violence against him on January 21 in York.

Mr Wright, who was a stranger to his attackers, died in hospital 10 days later from his injuries.

Aaron Wootton, 17, who can now be named for the first time, was cleared at Leeds Crown Court of murdering Mr Wright but unanimously found guilty of his manslaughter.

Both will be sentenced on Monday. Wyard faces an automatic life sentence while Judge Guy Kearl QC told Wootton he will receive “a significant sentence of custody”.

During the 10-day trial, the jury heard Mr Wright was making his way home in Acomb Road, York, around 7.30pm when he was confronted by Wyard and Wootton, then 19 and 16, who had been drinking heavily.

Richard Wright QC, prosecuting, said Wyard was behaving aggressively, trying to pick fights and had told staff at the hostel where he was then living that he wanted to use random violence towards somebody.

“That somebody was sadly to be the deceased, Keith Wright, a man completely unknown to the defendants, who had the misfortune to simply be at the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said.

Witnesses described Mr Wright being confronted at a bus stop and backing out on to the road where he was punched in the head by Wyard, falling heavily on the road.

They described Wyard then taking a running kick at the prone and unconscious Mr Wright like a footballer taking a penalty.

The horrified onlookers and motorists who had tried to intervene then saw Wootton go over and join in, apparently kicking Mr Wright.

“This was a joint attack of considerable duration and persistence. The violence that was used was both gratuitous and quite deliberate,” said the prosecutor.

Wyard did not give evidence.

Wootton, who was then living at Bentham House, Burnsall Drive, York, said he had tried to intervene between the other two and had only pushed Mr Wright after being kicked by him and the older man had slipped in slush.

After the case, Mr Wright’s family issued a statement describing him as a “private man who kept himself to himself”.

“We are absolutely devastated by this life-changing event. It puts things that are trivial into perspective. Nothing can bring Keith back but we want to thank all the witnesses who have helped us to get some sense of justice,” they said.

“We also want to thank the police, legal team, Victim Support and staff at York District Hospital and Leeds General Infirmary who cared for Keith before he died.

“Keith was born and bred in York. He lived alone in Acomb but his daughter, grandchildren, sister, two brothers, nieces and nephews all live locally.

“He enjoyed listening to music and keeping himself smart. He had a good sense of humour and we miss him.”

Detective Sergeant Steve Wilson, of York CID, said: “Mr Wright died as a result of an unprovoked, violent and sustained attack.

“He was minding his own business stood at a bus stop when Wyard and Wootton, who did not know him, attacked him for no apparent reason. They subjected him to an assault so vicious and sustained that Mr Wright had no chance of defending himself.

“The attack was witnessed by a number of people who were shocked by the level of violence used by them.

“Some tried to stop the attack, others informed the police and some rendered first aid to Mr Wright. The evidence provided by these witnesses has been vital to the prosecution case and I thank them for all their contribution.

“What has happened to Mr Wright cannot be undone and his family feel the deep sense of loss of their father, brother, uncle and grandfather.”