Manchester

Wythenshawe Park bird beheadings: Four sentenced

Smashed windows of aviary at Wythenshawe park
Image caption The damage caused came to almost £10,000

Four youths have been sentenced for wrecking a horticultural centre where 18 birds were found beheaded.

Fish were poisoned and 130 windows were smashed as the four caused £10,000 damage at Wythenshawe Park, Manchester, the city's crown court heard.

Gavin Wellesby, 19, of Didsbury admitted criminal damage. Three boys, aged 12, 16 and 17, admitted burglary and criminal damage.

All four were given non-custodial sentences.

During the raid a frog was speared with a metal stake and 12 koi carp were killed when fertiliser was put into their pond.

A storeroom was broken into and a number of spades, sledgehammers and pickaxes were taken and used to break windows.

The court could not decide who killed the birds, as the defendants blamed each other.

Judge Roger Thomas QC said that during interviews each had to sought to "belittle their own involvement and cast blame on the others".

'Mistake of my life'

Mark Rhind representing Wellesby told the court his client had a mental age of 10.

He had learning difficulties, was easily led and subject to bullying as he spent most of his time in the company of children, the barrister said.

"He alone gave a full and detailed account of what had gone on at Wythenshawe Park and it was an account that the Crown accepted as an accurate and truthful account."

In a letter to the judge, he wrote: "This was the biggest mistake of my life. I have brought shame to my family. Most of all I have let myself down. I deserve all I get."

Thanks to donations

Wellesby was given an 18-month community order, told to do 100 hours of unpaid work and ordered to obey a curfew for two months.

The 16-year-old and 17-year-old were each given 18-month youth rehabilitation orders with supervision requirements, ordered to perform 100 hours unpaid work and to observe a two-month curfew.

The 12-year-old was sentenced to a 12-month referral order.

Following building work, the centre at Wythenshawe Park reopened in August, largely thanks to donations.