Alan Greaves killing: Attackers jailed

Jonathan Bowling and Ashley Foster The court heard Jonathan Bowling, left, had an extensive history of violent offending

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A man who beat a church organist to death as he walked to a Christmas Eve service has been jailed for life.

Jonathan Bowling admitted attacking Alan Greaves with a pickaxe handle near St Saviour's Church in High Green.

Bowling, 22, who has a long history of violent offending, was told by a judge at Sheffield Crown Court he would serve a minimum of 25 years in prison.

Ashley Foster, 22, of Wesley Road, High Green was sentenced to nine years for manslaughter.

He was cleared of murder on Thursday after a trial.

Sentencing Bowling and Foster, Mr Justice Teare told them: "Why you wished to inflict violence on another human being on Christmas Eve is known only to you."

'Horrendous loss'

The judge said: "You chose your victim at random. Alan Greaves happened to be in front of you, on his way to serve the community, as he had always done, and you decided to inflict violence on him.

"Neither of you knew Alan Greaves. He had done nothing to provoke the attack on him.

"His wife, his family and his community have suffered a tragic and horrendous loss."

Mr Greaves's widow, Maureen, said she was "happy" with the sentences.

Alan Greaves Alan Greaves was walking to church to play the organ for Midnight Mass when he was attacked

Outside court she said: "To think Ashley's got nine years is the very best we could have got in the circumstances of the manslaughter.

"To think that Jonathan's got 25 minimum and to think he'll probably never come out, I really am wonderfully pleased with the result."

Mrs Greaves said she would not read a letter Bowling had written to her.

"To put it into my hands the day he was going to get sentenced, I didn't think it was very appropriate," she said.

Mr Greaves, 68, a father of four, died in hospital three days after suffering head injuries in the attack.

Before the sentencing, prosecutor Robert Smith told the judge Bowling's previous convictions included an attack on a 36-year-old jogger when Bowling was 15.

The judge heard how Bowling was also convicted in his teens for brandishing a hammer when a police officer stopped him, threatening a woman with a hammer and headbutting a woman who complained because he was throwing snowballs at her window.

Foster had no previous convictions for violence.

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