Fury as killer could be released from jail

Terri Crossland

Terri Crossland

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A KILLER who savagely knifed a Blackpool teenager to death in his own home could be freed in two years after a judge recognised his “exceptional progress” behind bars.

Jealous Nathan Butters viciously murdered 16-year-old Ben Prunty in a grudge attack over a girl in June 2003.

Butters, from Marton, along with two accomplices, burst into Ben’s Jesmond Avenue, South Shore, home and viciously punched and kicked the young teenager while his grandmother and two young sisters were in the house.

Ben’s grandma, Maureen Shelley, tried to go to his aid, but was punched to the floor, and watched helplessly as Butters went into the kitchen for a knife and then plunged it several times into Ben.

Butters was convicted of murder at Preston Crown Court in February 2004 and ordered to serve a minimum of 10 years behind bars.

But now, in an extremely rare move, a judge sitting at London’s High Court granted Butters six months off his minimum jail term – meaning he can ask the Parole Board to free him in February 2013.

Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart said it was clear the 25-year-old was now “a very different person” from the teenager who murdered tragic Ben.

Butters, captain of the prison football team who has taken 15 educational courses behind bars, was described as “very repentant”.

The judge said Butters had been “an unstable young man who came from a troubled family” and had endured “an appalling childhood” suffering from mental disorders including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

He added: “It is quite clear from reports that today Nathan Butters is a very different person from the 17-year-old with the behavioural or mental disorders that were described by the judge in his sentencing remarks.”

Butters will be able to apply for release in February 2013. The Parole Board will free him if it considers it safe to do so, however Butters will remain on perpetual life licence, subject to prison recall if he ever puts a foot wrong again.

The two accomplices – Butters’ uncle, Darren Butters, 27, and Richard Gregory, 35 – were handed four years for causing grievous bodily harm with intent. They served 18 months.

There was widespread outrage at the leniency of the sentences and Ben’s family have always fought to keep his killer behind bars.

His mum, Terri Crossland, of North Shore, previously told The Gazette: “If he was genuinely remorseful, wouldn’t he have told us? Of course he’s a model prisoner. He wants out.

“The anger threatens to destroy me. I must for Ben’s sake, for us all, speak out and stop this man getting out so early.”

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden, has also supported the family. He protested to the Attorney General about the leniency of the sentences in 2004, and also at the early release of the two older men.