Mum takes to witness box as killer is jailed

Murder victim Thomas Poole with mum Sandra Poole
Murder victim Thomas Poole with mum Sandra Poole
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A grieving mother bravely spoke of her family’s heartache as a partygoer was jailed for her son’s “senseless” killing.

Sandra Poole took to the witness box as two men were sentenced for their roles in the death of her son Thomas Poole.

Mr Poole, 23, was attacked at a party at a house in Ribble Road, Blackpool, on January 11 this year when Ryan Calvert struck the fatal punch.

As Mr Poole was slumped next to a cabinet, Shaun Dolan delivered a “karate-style” kick to his face.

Calvert, 20, wept in the dock as he was jailed for five years after admitting manslaughter.

Dolan pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm and was locked up for four years and three months.

In a moving speech, prior to the sentences, Mrs Poole, of Preston New Road, Marton, told the court: “Tom was killed senselessly and cruelly and left for dead by those responsible. ”

She added: “We as a family are serving a life sentence and our lives are damaged and ruined beyond repair.”

Mrs Poole later said she was unhappy with the length of sentences handed to Calvert and Dolan.

It was an impromptu party that was to end in tragedy – in a row over alcohol.

Thomas Poole had been invited to the party on Ribble Road on January 11.

So too had Ryan Calvert and Shaun Dolan.

Preston Crown Court heard how Mr Poole was said to have become annoyed about people drinking £60 of alcohol he had bought and that no-one had even offered him any money.

Neil Flewitt, prosecuting, said the fatal attack took place in a bedroom.

Mr Poole saw Calvert drinking Southern Comfort and tried to snatch a mug from his hand.

Calvert stood up and was toe-to-toe with him.

Both were described as being big lads.

They were throwing punches, with arms everywhere, the court heard.

A witness could not

remember if any of the punches landed.

Calvert appeared to get the better of Mr Poole who seemed to be pinned against a wall by body weight.

Someone went in to break it up, with two people grabbing Calvert.

Mr Poole was then seen slumped next to a cabinet, sat upright, but apparently unconscious. Dolan, previously of St Albans Road, Blackpool, went on, without warning and for no reason, to kick the stricken Mr Poole “almost karate-style” to the face.

The injured man did not respond when paramedics arrived and was later

pronounced dead.

Calvert, of Dean Street, Blackpool, pleaded guilty on the basis that he had thrown a single punch.

Mr Poole died from a catastrophic head injury.

The court heard there was evidence Mr Poole had been thrown out of the Flamingo’s nightclub earlier that evening after allegedly punching a man in the face. Both Calvert and Dolan had fled the scene following the attack, but were arrested later that same day – January 11.

Both had previous convictions that included violence.

Back in March 2011 they were sentenced for offences of robbery they had carried out together.

David Fish, defending Calvert, said: “This is, everyone may feel, a truly tragic case. No-one in court could fail to be moved and touched by the words written and bravely spoken by Mrs Poole (Thomas Poole’s mother)”.

He said it had been generous of the victim to earlier buy spirits and lagers and take them as a gift for the party.

One suspected that Mr Poole had witnessed others drinking alcohol he had brought along and that he was “miffed” or annoyed they were doing that, without contributing to the stock of the party, said the Mr Fish.

It was accepted that, at some stage, Calvert must have stood up and faced him in the small bedroom.

“He hit Mr Poole in the face once with his bare fist. As a result, Mr Poole was injured”, said Mr Fish.

“This was not full force that was used. The Crown has recognised there was no intent here even to cause really serious harm, let alone to kill”.

Mr Fish added Calvert had not been looking for trouble.

He added: “The incident erupted without planning or pre-meditation. He is very sorry for what happened”.

John Bromley-Davenport, defending Dolan, said he had delivered a single kick with the sole of his shoe.

“It was an almost inexplicable act for which it seems there was no motivation,” he told the court. “It had all the hallmarks of mindless violence, fuelled by drink and drugs. For

many months he had been facing a murder charge and the prospect of life imprisonment”.

What the Judge said

The judge said the case was “yet another example of excessive drinking leading to gratuitous violence”.

As he passed sentence, and after Thomas Poole’s mother told of her family’s heartache, the judge, Mr Justice MacDuff, told Calvert and Dolan: “You couldn’t bear to look her in the face, either of you, could you?”.
He added: “You, Calvert, struck him a single blow to the head. In short, that single punch was responsible for his death.”

Addressing Dolan, he added: “You were not to know that this man was already doomed as he lay on the floor.

“You literally ‘put the boot in’ to a man who was obviously motionless and you lied about your role until it suited you to tell the truth.”

He added: “You have brought immense and immeasurable grief to the whole of that family.

“You will be released from prison in due course, but Thomas will not be returned to his family.

“He was a good and loving son, his father’s best mate.”

Mrs Poole’s moving statement to the court

Thomas Poole’s heartbroken mother Sandra read out a statement to the court before the two men involved in her son’s assault and death were sentenced.

She said: “Tom loved life and enjoyed it fully in the time he was with us, and wanted to be loved by all.

“I particularly remember him when he was caring for me during me recent illness.

“He used to say ‘I wish I could take this for you mum. On January 11 our world fell apart and the dynamics of our family changed forever after a vicious attack on Tom.

“My husband said ‘no one understands he was not only my son, he was my best mate’.

“I think he regrets not being able to tell Tom this in person and he never will again.

“Tom, in our eyes, was killed senselessly and cruelly while at a so-called party and left for dead by those responsible, leaving others to call for help, the actions of which have completely impacted on our lives forever – leaving emptiness inside us all that will haunt us for the rest of our lives.

“However, we refuse to let the loving bond we had with him die with him. We relive the night before leading to Tom’s death like a video in our heads.

“I know I speak for us all when I say we think about our loss that day every day, at night, in bed at all hours – while sleeping, dreaming, being woken with the thought that he will never come home again.

“Sometimes it is hard to get out of bed or even go to bed at night wanting to go and find other members from the party to vent my anger out on them.

“We feel emotionally saddened by the fact we have to face the world without one of our sons.

“We feel this was a joint and needless act of violence with, in our opinion, no excuse.

“Their actions alone have caused Tom’s death and I feel they should be held responsible for their actions.

“They have to pay for taking the rights of a family away from us.

“I am concerned a few years locked away is not nearly long enough to break a cycle of behaviour and will not do justice for society, protecting others.”

“We as a family are serving a life sentence and our lives are damaged and ruined beyond repair.

“We will never see him again, never see him married, have children and give us grandchildren – or see his brothers’ lives develop keeping the family line.”