Man who killed masked intruder will not face prosecution

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The Independent Online

A householder who stabbed a suspected burglar to death will not face charges, it was announced yesterday.

Peter Flanagan, 59, knifed John Bennell, 27, in the chest after the masked intruder and three accomplices – one of whom was carrying a machete – smashed their way into his house in Salford, Greater Manchester, on 22 June.

He walked free yesterday after the North-west's Chief Crown Prosecutor Nazir Afzal ruled that the garage worker had used "reasonable force" to defend himself.

"I am satisfied that Peter Flanagan acted in self defence after being woken by noises downstairs in his house," Mr Afzal said. "On investigating the disturbance he was confronted by intruders, one of whom was armed with a machete."

He said he made the decision after "looking carefully" at the evidence alongside Crown Prosecution Service policy on householders and the use of force against intruders.

The killing came days after David Cameron said families should "feel safe in their homes" as he promised homeowners would not be punished for using "reasonable force" to protect themselves.

"In a case such as this I have to ask myself whether the use of force was necessary and whether it was reasonable in the circumstances," Mr Afzal added. "People are entitled to use reasonable force in self-defence to defend themselves, their family and their property. All the evidence indicates that in the frightening circumstances that he faced, Mr Flanagan did what he honestly and instinctively believed was necessary to protect himself and his home from intruders."

He added that Bennell's family have been informed of the decision.

Mr Flanagan, his son, Neil, 27, and the younger man's unnamed girlfriend were woken just before midnight on 22 June. When he confronted the men, a scuffle broke out between him and Bennell and he stabbed the man in the chest.

Shortly afterwards, the gang, consisting of Martin Jamieson, 27, Wesley Gibbons, 23, and Christopher Troy, 23, were seen trying to drag Bennell away. They abandoned his body in the street when they heard sirens approaching.

All three occupants of the house were arrested at the scene.

Chief Superintendent Kevin Mulligan of Greater Manchester Police said: "When presented with the circumstances of that evening we made the right decision to make the arrests. We had a duty of care to Bennell's family, the occupants of the house and to the coroner to fully investigate this death to determine whether or not it was a criminal act or one of self-defence."

An inquest into Bennell's death will be held in November. Mr Jamieson and Mr Gibbons are both charged with aggravated burglary while Mr Troy is charged with aggravated burglary and possession of a bladed article.

Days earlier, Mr Cameron had said that the new justice bill would "put beyond doubt that homeowners and small shopkeepers who use reasonable force to defend themselves or their properties will not be prosecuted".