Page last updated at 14:06 GMT, Friday, 20 June 2008 15:06 UK

Drinking binge which ended in murder

By Chris Summers
BBC News

Two under-age drinkers - one just 13 - have been jailed for sexually assaulting and killing a 24-year-old woman in Essex in a case that the local MP has described as "a savage indictment of Britain's binge-drinking culture".

The two boys were convicted last month

Colchester in Essex is a fairly typical British town.

On most Friday and Saturday nights large groups of young people go out drinking.

On 18 May 2007, one of them was Helen Maughan, a mother-of-two.

Two days later her half-naked body was found on a towpath beside a river in the centre of Colchester.

Binge drinking has become a way of life especially in the last decade and it has been brought about by an attitude which the government has allowed
Bob Russell MP

She had suffered 22 separate injuries but the cause of death was given as drowning. Police launched a murder inquiry. She had also been indecently assaulted.

Detectives scoured hours of CCTV footage from cameras in the town centre - Colchester has 80 council-owned cameras alone.

Eventually, they found her killers, one of whom, Lewis Hayward, was only 13 years old.

The police said they were shocked to discover the age of the suspects, considering the injuries Miss Maughan had sustained.

Hayward, and his 16-year-old friend, Alex Young, both denied killing Miss Maughan.

But last month Young was convicted of murder by a jury at Chelmsford Crown Court and Hayward was found guilty of manslaughter.

Helen Maughan
Helen Maughan, who left behind two young children, died after a night out

On Friday Young was sentenced to be detained at Her Majesty's pleasure for a minimum of 15 years and Hayward was jailed for four years. Passing sentence, Mr Justice Bean said Young and Hayward were brought to justice only because of CCTV and he said opponents of surveillance should take note.

He also condemned the drinking culture: "A 16-year-old drunken lout is sadly all too familiar in this court but I am old-fashioned enough to find it shocking that a 13-year-old has money to buy alcohol and roam the streets of Colchester."

Hayward's barrister, John Dodd QC, said: "This is a case of a child who lost his way and was expelled from school. He wandered the streets of Colchester drinking cheap alcohol and getting into the wrong company."

Sasha Wass QC, prosecuting, said of the pair: "Because of their age they used to have to get other people to buy their alcohol for them."

The trial heard Miss Maughan had been drinking heavily since 1400 BST in pubs in Colchester. At around 2230 BST she was caught on CCTV walking towards the river with the two boys.

At 2321 BST Miss Maughan was spotted on CCTV near Quilters bar. Forty minutes later the trio were seen walking along the towpath.

Hayward lied to police about his whereabouts but then changed his story and blamed Young for her death.

Colchester by day
Colchester is a typical British town with typical problems

The pair had bragged about what they had done, but apparently their friends did not believe them.

Police said Miss Maughan often went out drinking in Colchester and had been out alone drinking on the night she died.

The boys were both from dysfunctional families and Miss Maughan was a complete stranger to them prior to that night.

The Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester, Bob Russell, said Miss Maughan had been "brutally murdered" and described the case as a indictment of Britain's culture of binge drinking.

He said: "We have had 20 years of governments which have allowed wall-to-wall drinking.

"Binge drinking has become a way of life, especially in the last decade, and it has been brought about by an attitude which the government has allowed."

Binge drinking is not only damaging to health but it makes individuals vulnerable to harm
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith

Mr Russell said the government's encouragement of 24-hour drinking was largely responsible but he also blamed supermarkets which sold cheap alcohol and pubs which encouraged excessive drinking.

Earlier this week the government launched a 4m campaign of poster and TV advertising designed to discourage binge drinking, especially among young people.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the campaign would "challenge people to think twice about the serious consequences of losing control".

She said: "Binge drinking is not only damaging to health but it makes individuals vulnerable to harm. People who are drunk are much more likely to be involved in an accident or assault, be charged with a criminal offence."

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