Jail for 'thugs' who kicked man to death

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The family of a man who was "callously and cold-bloodedly" kicked and beaten to death today described his two teenage murderers as "nasty little thugs" as they were locked up for life.

Bret Atkins and Carl Marshall, both 19, set upon 35-year-old Simon Ash in Hull in April before stealing his shoes and mobile phone and leaving him to die.

Marshall was today handed a minimum sentence of 21 years and Atkins was told he would serve a minimum of 19 years after both pleaded guilty to Mr Ash's murder at Hull Crown Court yesterday.

The pair were also given concurrent sentences of six years for "viciously attacking" another man, John Potts, earlier the same evening, leaving him with serious head and facial injuries requiring reconstructive surgery.

Sentencing the pair, who showed no emotion as they stood in the dock, Mr Justice Keith said they had "unleashed a trail of havoc and destruction" before deliberately targeting Mr Ash, who was on his own on an isolated walkway, near Hull's Millennium Bridge.

He told them: "No-one you came across was safe from you, whether it was the man walking along (the) road, minding his own business, or the couple you followed who felt so intimidated by you they made an emergency call to the police.

"Or John Potts, who you viciously attacked by Hull College. Or Simon Ash, whose life you so callously and cold-bloodedly brought to a premature end after cornering him in an isolated spot where you could do your worst."

The pair, who were both 18 at the time, savagely attacked Mr Ash, kicking him and stamping on his head so hard that an imprint of Atkins' trainer was left on his face.

Mr Justice Keith said CCTV footage of the earlier attack on Mr Potts showed Atkins punching him and stamping on his head before Marshall took a "running kick" and "gratuitously kicked him hard in the head".

Members of Mr Ash's family reacted angrily to the sentence and shouted abuse at the defendants from the public gallery as they were taken away to the cells.

Mr Justice Keith told the families he hoped the sentencing would bring a measure of closure.

He said: "I want them all to know that I've taken into account the devastating and unimaginable effect that Simon Ash's death and circumstances of it will have had on their lives."

The judge continued: "I know they must be thinking that 21 years and 19 years are nothing when compared to the loss of Simon Ash's life, which of course is priceless."

Speaking after the sentencing, Mr Ash's mother, Irene Robinson, and brothers Mark and Aaron Ash, said the behaviour of Atkins and Marshall was worse than animals.

Mrs Robinson said: "I think they are two very, very nasty little thugs. I was going to call them animals but animals don't behave the way they behaved."

Mark Ash added: "There are no words to describe them. They've affected our lives forever."

Mr Ash's mother said she thought the sentence was the best the family could hope for.

"If it was 100 years, it wouldn't have been enough but I think the judge did what he could do within the law. Listening to him sum up, I think if he could have given them more he would have done," Mrs Robinson said.

The family said the loss of Mr Ash, who they described as "happy and relaxed" with a love of other languages, cultures, nature and slate carving, would leave "an extremely big hole" in their lives.

Atkins and Marshall were also sentenced to four years, to be served concurrently, for robbing Mr Ash of his boots and mobile phone.