Organist murder trial told attackers ‘laughed’

Alan Greaves was attacked on Christmas Eve. Picture: PA
Alan Greaves was attacked on Christmas Eve. Picture: PA
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TWO men were heard laughing after they battered a church organist to death with a pick-axe handle on Christmas Eve, prosecutors told a jury yesterday.

Lay preacher Alan Greaves, 68, was attacked as he walked to St Saviour’s Church in Sheffield for Midnight Mass on 24 December. He died from “grave and catastrophic” head injuries in hospital three days later.

Prosecutors told a jury at Sheffield Crown Court that Mr Greaves was attacked by Jonathan Bowling and Ashley Foster as he went to play the organ at the service – something he had done for 40 years.

Bowling, 22, has admitted killing the pensioner but Foster, also 22, denies the murder and went on trial yesterday.

Robert Smith QC, prosecuting, told the court the pair went out together looking for someone to attack. Mr Smith told the jury: “In short, the prosecution say that these two men were walking the streets looking for a suitable victim. If it hadn’t been Mr Greaves, it would have been someone else.”

He told the court how 17-year-old William Parr spotted two men running in a nearby park shortly after the attack.

Giving evidence later, Mr Parr said the men were “speed walking” and they were “walking, talking, laughing”.

Mr Smith said it was the prosecution case that the two men Mr Parr saw in the park were Bowling and Foster.

The prosecutor described how Mr Greaves suffered head injuries similar to those seen in a car crash or a fall from a height.

Mr Smith said part of the pensioners’ head was hit so hard that the bones splintered into a number of pieces.

The prosecutor told the jury it was the prosecution case that Mr Greaves was hit with a pick-axe handle that was found later. He said fragments of wood found in the pensioner’s head matched this weapon.

But Mr Smith said damage to Mr Greaves’s hat showed a second weapon was also used, possibly a hammer.

Mr Smith said nothing was taken from Mr Greaves and robbery did not appear to be the motive for the attack.

The jury was told that Bowling and Foster had been at a nearby house earlier in the day, drinking lager and Bacardi and Cokes. They were arrested in January after police released CCTV footage of men to whom they wanted to talk.

Foster handed himself in to police but claimed it was Bowling who attacked Mr Greaves and he had nothing to do with it, the jury of six men and six woman was told.

Foster told his mother that his friend kept repeating, “I’m going to smash someone’s head in”, and told him to “watch” before running at Mr Greaves.

The defendant claimed Bowling had been threatening to attack someone else with a hammer earlier, the prosecutor said.

But Mr Smith said the prosecution rejected Foster’s version of events.

The court heard that Mr Greaves left his home shortly after 11pm on Christmas Eve.

Mr Smith told the jury: “He never returned home.”

He died in hospital on the evening of 27 December. The trial continues today.