Four jailed for hammer murder


A father and the two sons he recruited for a "mission to murder" a business associate, found dying in the back of a van, were jailed for life today.

Robert Derek Johnston, 57, and his sons Ben, 27, and Tom, 25, along with colleague Shaun Matthews, 56, travelled to the home of father-of-three Shaleem Amar intent on killing him with lump hammers, Reading Crown Court was told.

All four were found guilty of murdering the 33-year-old after cornering him in the kitchen of his rented luxury home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, and showering him with blows.

He was found in a rubble bag, covered with sand, by police who stopped the van on the afternoon of November 17 last year.

Judge Zoe Smith gave each of the four men a life sentence for "brutally attacking" Mr Amar.

Johnston senior will serve a minimum of 28 years, with Ben Johnston given a minimum sentence of 25 years and his younger brother a 20-year minimum tariff. Matthews will have to serve at least 25 years in jail before he is eligible for parole.

The Johnstons, all from Pampisford, Cambridgeshire, and Matthews, from Whittlesford, Cambridgeshire, did not react as they were sentenced.

Mr Amar's family, including wife Shajiba, sighed with relief as Judge Smith passed the life sentences.

Mr Amar was struck at least seven times while covering his face and head in self-defence, Reading Crown Court was told.

Shortly after the crime was committed, Mr Amar's wife - who was living nearby at the time - arrived at Tresanton, her husband's rented home.

She unwittingly walked past the van in which her husband lay grievously wounded, a fact which she said "tortures" her every day.

The court heard the men planned to bury Mr Amar in a large hole that had been dug by Matthews in a 10-acre field, but were stopped by police before they could do so.

Mr Amar was bleeding profusely from a wound to his head when he was found, some time after police stopped the van, and was pronounced dead at the roadside despite the efforts of paramedics and a passing off-duty nurse.

The Johnstons and Matthews denied murder but were found guilty by a jury following a six-week trial.

Mr Amar and the Johnstons were involved in a multi-million-pound fraud and the motive for the murder was greed, prosecutor Noel Lucas QC said.

The fraudulent business carried out complicated paper-trail VAT fraud, claiming VAT on goods it "sold" but that did not actually exist.

Mr Lucas said the way Mr Amar was killed could be "likened to torture" and added that for Johnston senior, the matter was made worse by "the fact that he took his two sons with him on a mission to murder".

Judge Smith told Ben Johnston as she sentenced him: "Your character witnesses have described you as a man who is non-violent, but it must therefore have been out of loyalty to your father that you were involved in such a deadly plan."

She also noted that Tom Johnston could be described as a "secondary party" to the murder.


Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral