Page last updated at 16:45 GMT, Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Man guilty of homophobic murder

Mark Malone
Mark Malone was warned he faced an automatic life sentence

A homophobic man who stabbed an accountant in a public toilet in Surrey has been found guilty of murder.

Mark Malone, 30, attacked Jeff Akers near a beauty spot in Walton-on-Thames in February, the Old Bailey heard.

The 50-year-old died in hospital after he staggered from the toilet with the eight-inch (20cm) knife in his back.

Judge David Paget remanded Malone in custody until 5 December, pending psychiatric reports, but warned he faced an automatic life sentence.

Ann Cotcher QC, prosecuting, said: "It was a totally unprovoked attack by Mark Malone and the only possible motive homophobia, a dislike of homosexuals."

Mr Akers, 50, originally from Barry, south Wales, had lived with his partner, Mike Drew, for 22 years, in Wallington, south London.

'Loved by everybody'

The judge expressed sympathy to Mr Drew, saying it was "an awful waste of life for absolutely nothing".

In a statement read to the court Mr Drew expressed his devastation.

He said: "I feel that there is only half of me now. I have to look at everything differently. He was really loved by everybody."

He added: "He did so much for people in the gay community, people with HIV.

Jeff Akers
Jeff Akers died in hospital after being stabbed in the back

"I am private about my thoughts and emotions. I hide it, even though I feel like crying all the time."

The court heard that the toilet was a well-known meeting place for homosexuals.

Malone, a married father, of Clement Road, Walton-on-Thames, had earlier been seen in the area waving a knife, the court was told.

Jurors heard unemployed Malone had drunk a bottle of vodka on the day of the attack.

He said he became involved when Mr Akers made advances towards him, but said his memory of what happened was hazy.

Eventually Malone handed himself in, and claimed he knew the toilet was a popular spot for gay men "but that he had no issues with the gay community and that he himself was not an angry person".

After the hearing, Det Ch Insp Mark Preston-Heard, said: "This was a vicious, unprovoked homophobic attack by Mark Malone on a harmless, innocent man."

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