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Friday, 19 May, 2000, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Bridge murder gang get life
hungerford bridge
Men were thrown over the side of Hungerford Bridge
A gang of youths who threw a law student from a Thames bridge "for fun" have all been sentenced to life imprisonment for the killing.

Three of the teenagers received adult life sentences, while the remaining three were given juvenile life sentences at the Old Bailey.

They had tried to blame each other for Timothy Baxter's death but a jury found they were all responsible for his killing and the attempted murder of his friend Gabriel Cornish.

Trial Judge Ann Goddard said they had shown no mercy to Mr Baxter and had been guilty of "heartless, gratuitous violence".

The six teenagers, three of no fixed address and three juveniles from South London, had pleaded not guilty to the crimes.

This was heartless, gratuitous violence

Judge Ann Goddard
But 20-year-old Sonni Reid was ordered to be detained for life for the murder and was concurrently jailed for 16 years in a young offenders' institution for the attempted murder of Gabriel Cornish.

John Riches, 22, was jailed for life for murder and 14 years concurrently for attempted murder.

And Cameron Cyrus, 19, was ordered to be detained for life for murder and sentenced to 16 years concurrently in a youth attendance institution for attempted murder.

Two youths, aged 17 and 15, as well as a 16-year-old girl were ordered to be detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure for murder.

They were also jailed for 16 years concurrently, for 12 years and for 12 years concurrently respectively for attempted murder.

'Grave responsibility'

Judge Goddard told the 16-year-old girl there was no evidence that she had played a physical part, but those who encouraged others bore "grave responsibility" for what happened.

The girl and her boyfriend were caught on closed circuit security cameras exchanging a kiss.

They were laughing and joking with the third member of their group.

Three of the gang were also found guilty of trying to rob the two students.

The judge told the gang that the grief of Mr Baxter's family could not be measured, and she doubted Mr Cornish would "ever be free of his experience and the death of his friend".

Victim Timothy Baxter
The trial was told Mr Baxter, 24, and his former school friend Mr Cornish were beaten unconscious and hurled off Hungerford Bridge in the centre of London, at 0400BST on 18 June last year.

Mr Cornish, 25, was rescued but Mr Baxter did not regain consciousness and drowned.

His body was found the next day. Reid and Riches were also found guilty of attempting to rob the students and stealing a wallet and assaulting Matthew Reynolds, 22, at the Embankment.

The 17-year-old admitted attempted robbery and theft. Mr Sweeney said the two older men and the 17-year-old had tried to rob the students as they walked home after a night in London's West End.

'Callous act'

The second group, consisting of the other two juveniles and Cyrus, walked on to the bridge from the other direction.

Mr Cornish appealed to them for help not knowing they knew the robbers. Instead of helping they joined in the attack.

One of the group had called out that it would be "fun" to throw the students off after had been beaten and kicked unconscious, the trial heard.

Det Chief Insp David Shipperlee said after the court case: "It was the most callous of acts by a group of young people.

"They not only beat these two young people unconscious but they - it would appear for fun - picked them up and threw them over railings into the River Thames.

"Anyone in their right mind would have known it would cause someone's death."

Nigel Sweeney, prosecuting, said the gang were all either homeless or spent their time socialising with people sleeping rough in Leicester Square in the heart of London's theatreland.

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