Racist killers get life for 'poisonous' attack

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Two men who murdered black teenager Anthony Walker were jailed for life today for what their trial judge described as a "poisonous" attack.

Paul Taylor, 20, who smashed an ice axe into the 18-year-old's head after ambushing him in a park in Huyton, Merseyside, in July, was told he will spend at least 23 years and eight months in jail.

His cousin Michael Barton, 17, Premiership footballer Joey Barton's brother, was told he would serve at least 17 years and eight months for the murder.

Sentencing the pair, Mr Justice Leveson told Taylor and Barton: "This was a racist attack of a type poisonous to any civilised society.

The judge said: "There is no difference between people of different races, each trying to live out their lives in peace. In spite of your youth, deterrent sentences are vital.

Passing sentence on Barton, the judge said: "You crept into the park with evil on your mind and then affected your ambush."

Taylor showed no reaction as he was led from the dock.

Barton also showed no reaction but simply nodded to members of his family as he was taken down.

The Walker family remained silent while sentence was passed.

Mr Justice Leveson told the pair: "After Anthony Walker and (his cousin) Marcus Binns had been taunted, for some reason which I am sure was related to the colour of their skin, you both appear to have been affronted by their presence on the street and determined to follow them by car, to wait for them and to waylay them in a terrifying ambush."

Taylor admitted murder on November 15 and was sentenced at Preston Crown Court, sitting in Liverpool, today.

Barton was convicted of Anthony's murder by a jury yesterday.

The judge told the pair: "You took from Anthony Walker his most preciouspossession, that is to say his life and all it held for him.

"He was a young man of enormous promise, lost in a moment.

"You have damaged forever the lives of those who loved him.

"Further, you have destroyed your own lives and affected the lives of all who are dear to you. You have done it to yourselves."

Mr Justice Leveson told Taylor he accepted that he did not start the confrontation but said that he "quickly allied yourself to it".

He said that if Taylor had not driven his car to find Anthony and his friends after the initial confrontation, the tragedy would never have happened.

He also accused him of having "a streak of loutish lack of control" .

He told Barton that although he did not wield the axe, he was jointly responsible for the murder.

He said: "This was a terrible incident and you played a full part in jointly bringing the ice axe to further your terrifying attack.

"You knew what you intended to do as you drove searching out your quarries and you crept into the park with evil on your mind."

Anthony was waiting at a bus stop with his cousin and girlfriend when Bartonbegan hurling racist abuse on July 29.

Anthony, a devout Christian, did not retaliate but simply walked on to wait elsewhere.

As they cut across a park, they were ambushed by Barton and Taylor, who had driven ahead to wait for them.

Anthony's cousin and girlfriend escaped but he was attacked by Barton, who struggled to get the better of the powerfully-built basketball fanatic.

When it became clear Anthony was winning the fight, Barton shouted "Get him off me!" and Taylor struck him from behind with the axe - which smashed his skull and embedded in his brain.

Taylor later told his girlfriend that he had to act "because Michael was getting battered".

Anthony's mother, 49-year-old Gee Walker, saw the axe sticking out of his head in hospital and she was at his side when he died five hours later.

Before passing sentence, the judge had been told that Taylor is " horrified" atwhat he has done.

Andrew Menary QC, defending Taylor, said in mitigation the killer was sorry for what he had done and wanted to apologise to Anthony's family.

"This killing was and remains a senseless event," Mr Menary said.

"A moment of mindless violence on the part of this young man has ended so tragically for Anthony Walker and his family."

Mr Menary said Taylor, who killed Anthony with a two-foot-long ice axe, had been "consistently under the influence of cannabis" at the time of the killing.

Mr Menary added: "He is deeply sorry for the hurt he has caused to Mrs Walker in particular and other members of the Walker family.

"He is and remains horrified at what he did."

David Steer QC, defending Barton, said the most relevant features of his mitigation were his youth and lack of intelligence.

He said: "Age clearly is a very important consideration and I would seek to link to that the level of his intellect.

"I described him to the jury as slow, dim and for my purposes I stand by that."

Mr Steer also asked to be taken into consideration the fact that Barton had no previous convictions, did not inflict the fatal injury and did not intend to kill Anthony.

The court heard that the minimum tariff for an adult convicted of murder is 15 years, which automatically doubles to 30 years when a crime is racially aggravated.

For juveniles convicted of murder, the starting tariff is 12 years and there is no automatic doubling for racially aggravated crimes, although it would inevitably increase the sentence.

Mr Justice Leveson confirmed his comments yesterday that he considered the murder to be racially aggravated.

He said: "I am sure this act was racially aggravated and premeditated."

Members of the Walker family were visibly upset when the judge said: " They both crept into the park and I am sure they set a trap which was sprung as Anthony Walker, Marcus Binns and (Anthony's girlfriend) Louise Thompson came along the path.

"The terror evident in Marcus Binns and Louise Thompson proves beyond all reasonable doubt that this was not simply two groups bumping into each other - the word used by both defendants to the police designed to minimise their responsibility.

"I am sure that the fear they generated was deliberate and the plan was premeditated to the extent that it was formed in the car."

In explaining how he calculated the minimum tariffs, Mr Justice Leveson said thestarting point for Taylor was 30 years.

Although the crime was racially aggravated and premeditated, Taylor received credit for his guilty plea, which the judge said "required real courage".

The second most important feature of mitigation, he said, was Taylor's young age and limited intellectual capacity.

He also accepted that Taylor's intention was to cause serious harm rather than to kill Anthony.

Because Barton is a juvenile, the starting point for his tariff was 12 years, and there is no automatic doubling for racial motivation, as was the case with Taylor.

Mr Justice Leveson gave him credit for his young age and the fact that he intended to do serious harm rather than kill.

The sentence was increased because of the racial elements, and the fact that it was a joint decision to take the axe from the car.