Gang convicted of sub-postmaster's murder

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The Independent Online

Three men were convicted today of murdering a sub-postmaster who was gunned down as he tried to protect his parents during an armed robbery at their family-run village store.

Craig Hodson-Walker, 29, was shot through the heart as he tried to fend off a masked gang at the post office and general stores in Fairfield, Worcestershire, in January.

His father Ken was also shot during the raid - sustaining a bullet wound to his left shin.

Following a ten-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court a jury found Christopher Morrissey, 32, his brother Declan Morrissey, 34, and Anselm Ribera, 34, guilty of murder.

They were also convicted of attempting to murder Ken Hodson-Walker.

A fourth defendant, Adrian Snape, was cleared of both charges.

Snape, of Camelot Way, Small Heath, Birmingham, had already pleaded guilty to attempted robbery, admitting he was the getaway driver.

After he was cleared of murder, he leapt up in the dock and shouted repeatedly: "It told you. I f****** told you, didn't I?"

He was then removed by security staff while the jurors, some of whom were visibly upset by his outburst, were told to leave the court.

Christopher Morrissey, of Elmay Road, Sheldon, Birmingham, Declan Morrissey, of Shirley Park Road, Shirley, Solihull, and Ribera, of Topfield House, Druids Heath, Birmingham, were also convicted of possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life and attempted robbery.

All four men will be sentenced on Friday.

The gang - described by prosecutor Timothy Raggatt QC as a "close knit group" - struck at the store at 8.20am on January 9.

Snape waited outside the post office in a stolen getaway car while Ribera and the Morrissey brothers stormed the shop.

Ribera brandished an automatic pistol, which he cocked just seconds after entering, and the Morrisseys shared a sledgehammer.

The killers demanded cash and keys from Ken Hodson-Walker, 57, who was working behind the counter.

But Mr Raggatt told jurors the raid was "in vain" because the safe - which contained around £20,000 - was on a time lock and could not be opened before 9am.

Craig Hodson-Walker had rushed to his father's aid with a cricket bat, wearing just his boxer shorts.

His mother Judith Hodson-Walker, 57, had tried to fight the robbers with a curtain pole.

Mrs Hodson-Walker broke down as she told jurors of her son's last moments.

Mrs Hodson-Walker, who smiled but remained silent as the verdicts were returned, told the court that she cradled her son as he lay on the floor in a grocery aisle after the killers fled.

She said her husband told her he was dead but she refused to believe the tragic truth, desperately trying to resuscitate him.

"He said 'he's gone' and I said 'he can't be gone, he's my son'," she said.

Jurors, who took just less than 10 hours to deliver their verdicts, watched CCTV footage of the raid.

The scenes showed Ribera and the Morrissey brothers entering the store as Ken Hodson-Walker served a local woman with a packet of cigarettes.

In a statement read to the court, Mr Hodson-Walker said he feared for his life as one of the Morrissey brothers demanded cash in a "threatening" and "evil" voice.

Craig Hodson-Walker's fiancee Lisa Bundy, 26, and his mother read victim impact statements to the judge, in which they both said they no longer live, but merely "exist".

Miss Bundy, dressed in black, said she and Mr Hodson-Walker had been eagerly planning their forthcoming wedding and were looking to move in together.

She described the moment in which she was told of his death as an "emotional bombshell".

She said: "It was as if my whole world had collapsed and strangely enough, in hindsight, it has. It is funny how you go through life, sad things happen, and you get upset, but it is not until something as tragic as this happens that you finally realise what really being upset is.

"Every day I feel lonely, I have now lost the one person I felt closest to and the one person I need to hold my hand and tell me everything would be ok. It has left a huge gaping hole in my life."