Page last updated at 16:10 GMT, Friday, 19 October 2007 17:10 UK

Four jailed for taxi row killing

Clockwise from top left: Laura Mitchell, Carl Holmes, Michael Hall and Henry Ballantyne
The judge described the attack as "vicious and brutal"

A mother and three friends have been jailed for life for killing a man in a row over a taxi.

Andrew Ayres, 50, of Bradford, was beaten to death by a pack of "absolute animals", Bradford Crown Court heard.

Mother Laura Mitchell, 22, was convicted of murder and violent disorder along with Michael Hall, 22 and Henry Ballantyne, 20.

Carl Holmes, 21, pleaded guilty to murder. All four must serve a minimum of 13 years and six months.

The court heard Mr Ayres had tried to stop a fight after Mitchell and three friends had attacked a group of people after jumping a taxi queue outside the Kings Head pub in Bradford in the early hours of 27 January.

The court was told that Mitchell had "gone off her head" in the row after brothers Craig and Dean Powell rightfully claimed it was theirs.

Ball and chain

Mr Ayres then tried to restrain her, but the court was told he "paid for it with his life".

After the "first phase" of the attack, "reinforcements" were sought from a nearby house.

Bradford murder
The gang used a mace to attack father of two Mr Ayres

Mitchell was then joined by Ballantyne and the others who armed themselves with a knuckle duster, CS spray and a medieval flail with a ball and chain.

As Mr Ayres left the area, he and two friends saw the gang coming towards them and ran back to the pub.

Adrian Waterman QC, prosecuting, said the pub doors had been locked, trapping the three outside.

The others managed to escape, but Mr Ayres was attacked with the flail and punched and kicked to the ground by Mitchell and the others.

It was a brutal and vicious attack on a man who had done you no wrong

Judge Stephen Gullick

Holmes then stamped on his head at least three times, the court heard.

Mr Ayres was pronounced dead an hour after the assault.

The court was told Holmes handed himself into police the next day, and the others and the weapons were seized.

Mitchell, Hall and Ballantyne were convicted after a six-week trial.

Judge Stephen Gullick said: "It was a brutal and vicious attack on a man who had done you no wrong.

"The fact that you had been drinking very considerable amounts of alcohol during the previous six hours had a major impact on your behaviour.

"To some it may explain it. It cannot excuse it."



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