Thief jailed for life after murdering pensioner who tried to stop him stealing his car
A CAR thief has been jailed for life for murdering a pensioner who died trying to prevent his 4x4 car being stolen.
• Wife watched in horror as 76-year-old was crushed to death outside home
• Car thief claimed death was accident
Christopher Grenfell drove over James Simpson, crushing him to death outside his home in Ashgill, Lanarkshire, last
Mr Simpson’s wife Minnie saw her 76-year-old husband fall under the wheels of their Land Rover Discovery.
Unemployed Grenfell claimed he killed Mr Simpson “by accident”, but was found guilty of murder after a nine-day trial at the High Court in Glasgow yesterday.
Judge Lord Burns jailed him for a minimum of 17 years, saying: “Your actions were deplorable and motivated by greed.”
After the verdict, Mr Simpson’s son, Jamie, paid tribute to his “brave” father for confronting Grenfell.
In a statement, he said: “My father had a strong sense of right and wrong. This, combined with his bravery, resulted in the pursuit of the individual who decided it was his right to take property belonging to my mother and father.”
The son said the killer drove away after the incident “leaving a dying man in the street”.
He added: “My mother was a happy, confident and independent woman. Now [she] is shattered, nervous and a lonely widow.
“Every day of her life, my mother always includes the phrase: ‘If Jimmy was here…’ This is the sentence that Christopher Grenfell has handed to my father, mother and me.”
It emerged Grenfell, of Larkhall, Lanarkshire, has a criminal record including a string of road traffic offences. He was convicted of dangerous driving just months before the murder and banned from driving.
The trial heard Grenfell jumped into the Land Rover after smashing a window at the Simpsons’ home and snatching the keys. He was said to have gone there with 24-year-old co-accused William MacVicar, who did not face the murder charge.
Mr Simpson heard the commotion and vaulted through a gap in the front door went to confront the thief. His wife told the jury: “My husband immediately got up… and he shouted: ‘They are stealing the car’. He was down the stairs in about a second flat.” The pensioner opened the door of the car and tried to pull Grenfell out.
Mrs Simpson said: “A great relief went through me when I saw the car then going up the road. I was then astonished when the car stopped suddenly and I went into despair when it reversed back to where it had been.”
The teacher wept as she described her husband of 46 years then being “whirled around and around”. She said: “I shouted stop, but no-one was listening.”
The Land Rover then “went like a bullet” away from the scene. before Mrs Simpson rushed to her husband’s aid.
She said: “I said: ‘You will be alright, Jimmy’, but he was not looking at me. He was just staring.”
“I was shouting: ‘help me somebody, help’. My neighbour who is a doctor came out and took his pulse. I was there screaming and screaming.”
Mrs Simpson refuted a suggestion her account of the tragedy could be “blurred”.
She said: “I will never forget it as long as I live. It flashes before my eyes and I cannot get to sleep because of it.”
Lord Burns told Grenfell that he “deliberately” used Mr Simpson’s car to “inflict fatal and devastating” injuries.
MacVicar was found guilty of theft, but admonished due to time on remand.
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