Man jailed for killing man urinating through letterbox

Friday 29 October 2010 13:56 BST

A "good neighbour" who stabbed a man he caught urinating through his letterbox on a yob-plagued estate was jailed for five years today after admitting manslaughter.

Michael Williams, 53, "just flipped" after he caught father-of-one Anthony Kershaw, 25, high on drink and drugs, defiling his property.

The householder, who lived alone, had already suffered the same attack previously, and had paint thrown on his door, Manchester Crown Court heard.

Residents were too frightened to go out at night because of a gang of teenagers terrorising the sprawling Smallbridge council estate in Rochdale, it was said.

Williams, described by neighbours as "pleasant, friendly and keeps himself to himself" heard a bang on the front door of his ground-floor flat, as if someone was kicking at it to break in.

He went to investigate, to see urine pouring through his letterbox, he told police.

Angry he went to his kitchen, grabbed a knife with a seven-inch blade and as Mr Kershaw urinated, swung open the door and in a "momentary intention" stabbed his victim in the stomach.

He then closed the door and dialled 999 as friends of Mr Kershaw tried to attack Williams, smashing his windows and threatening to "burn him alive" by torching the property.

Mr Kershaw died the next day in hospital from the knife wound to his stomach.

The court heard the estate in Rochdale had suffered years of anti-social behaviour from people drinking and taking drugs in communal areas and stairwells, and being "extremely abusive" to residents.

Locals had "lost confidence" in the authorities to do anything about the problem, the court heard, though Anti-Social Behaviour Orders had been handed out to some of the gang.

On the night of April 19, Mr Kershaw had been to a friend's house on the third floor of the flats where Williams lived.

He had been drinking and smoking cannabis and around midnight he left with a friend and passed Williams' front door.

The householder heard noises outside his flat which was "nothing unusual" but often a "precursor" to anti-social behaviour.

He then heard someone kicking at his front door as if trying to break-in.

"The events unfolded in that Mr Williams then believed someone was trying to enter his premises," Peter Wright QC, prosecuting, told the court.

"He went to investigate and saw someone urinating through his letterbox and, in his own words, 'just flipped'.

"He went to the kitchen, armed himself with a knife, returned to the hallway, opened the door and stabbed the figure outside the door."

As friends of Mr Kershaw tried to batter their way into his property he dialled 999, later confessing to officers what he had done because he simply lost his temper.

Andrew O'Byrne QC, mitigating, read out a series of police and council reports involving friends of Mr Kershaw in anti-social behaviour on the estate - though these were just the incidents actually reported, he said.

Residents had "lost any confidence" in the authorities and many were now simply too scared to go out at night.

There was also a "lack of parental control" from Mr Kershaw's mother, the court heard.

Mr O'Byrne said: "The overwhelming inference, we would submit, is that the events outside Mr Williams' flat that night were simply another occurrence of a pattern of behaviour from various people that has gone on on that estate over a long period of time.

"The evidence is that because of the behaviour of people on that estate the lives of a great many people, otherwise thoroughly decent in their day to day dealings, were made extraordinarily difficult.

"It is difficult to imagine what it's like when there is this constant drip, drip intrusion into your quiet enjoyment of your own property."

While in custody since his arrest Williams had "come to the attention of friends" of Mr Kershaw in jail and had been assaulted and was now segregated from other prisoners for his own safety, Mr O'Byrne added.

The defendant himself had previous convictions for a domestic related assault and public order offences.

Passing sentence, Mr Justice Keith said: "I take into account that this was a frightening and intimidating estate to live on and I have noted the violence, abuse and other anti-social behaviour which you and other people on your estate have been subjected to over the years.

"You were responsible for his death, however drunk and high he was and however badly he was behaving that night."

Mr Kershaw's mother, Debbie Alger, in a tribute to her son after his death described him as "always a jack-the-lad and loved by many".

Mr Kershaw had a young son, Stevie-Lee, with his girlfriend Natalie.

But his family stormed out of court as the judge addressed them following sentence.

He told the family: "Whatever Anthony died he did not deserve to die."

Clearly angry at the five year jail term, one member of Mr Kershaw's family berated investigating officers outside the courtroom, shouting: "Not one of you stood up and said he had a good character! F*****g twats!"

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