Householder will not face charge over burglar he stabbed to death

A householder who was arrested on suspicion of murdering a burglar is to be released without charge.

Peter Flanagan, 59, was held after the death of John Bennell, 27, who died from a stab wound to the chest after a number of masked men tried to break into Mr Flanagan’s home in Salford, Greater Manchester.

Nazir Afzal, chief Crown prosecutor for the North West, said: “I have today told the police of my decision that Peter Flanagan should not face any charges in connection with the death of John Bennell, an intruder who broke into his home in Salford on 22 June.”

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Mr Afzal said: “I am satisfied that Peter Flanagan acted in self-defence after being woken by noises downstairs in his house shortly before midnight. On investigating the disturbance he was confronted by intruders, one of whom was armed with a machete.

“In reaching this decision I have looked carefully at the evidence that the police have presented in this case and have taken into consideration the Crown Prosecution Service policy on householders and the use of force against intruders. In a case such as this I have to ask myself whether the use of force was necessary and whether it was reasonable in the circumstances.

“People are entitled to use reasonable force in self-defence to defend themselves, their family and their property. All the evidence indicates that in the frightening circumstances that he faced, Mr Flanagan did what he honestly and instinctively believed was necessary to protect himself and his home from intruders.”

Police were first alerted by a frantic 999 call from a woman to reports of a burglary at the house in Ethel Avenue, and then a second call to reports of an injured man being carried along the street nearby.

Mr Bennell was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police sources later confirmed that Mr Bennell had been arrested in Tamworth, Staffordshire, earlier in June on suspicion of burglary.

He was held in custody overnight and then released by Staffordshire Police pending further inquiries.

Mr Flanagan, 59, was arrested on suspicion of murder and later bailed pending further inquiries.

His son, Neil, 27, and a 21-year-old woman were also arrested but released without charge.

Mr Flanagan, an engineer by trade, was described as a hard-working man by locals.

Neighbour Sylvia Sharp-Cadigan, 67, said: “We are all upset because it is a quiet little street, we never have any bother. You don’t like it on your own doorstep.”

The incident came shortly after Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to bring in stronger measures to protect homeowners defending their property.

“We will put beyond doubt that homeowners and small shopkeepers who use reasonable force to defend themselves or their properties will not be prosecuted,” he said.

Greater Manchester Police confirmed Mr Flanagan had been released without charge.

Chief Superintendent Kevin Mulligan said: “When presented with the circumstances of that evening, we made the right and proper decision to make the arrests.

“We had a duty of care to John Bennell’s family, the occupants of the house and to the coroner to fully investigate this death to determine whether or not it was a criminal act or one of self-defence. I am satisfied that we provided the full facts of the case to the CPS and I respect their decision.”

Three men from Greater Manchester have been charged with aggravated burglary in connection with the incident.