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Simon Johnson: How father's friendliness ended in brutal murder

By John Scott | Netherton | Crime | Published:

Friendly Simon Johnson ignored the advice of pals to stop inviting people he met in the pub back to his home - and paid with his life.

Police at the house where Simon Johnson, inset, was killed

Mr Simon Denison QC, prosecuting, told Wolverhampton Crown Court: "The deceased was a naturally trusting man - too trusting as it turned out."

The 41-year-old victim had lived alone in the three-bedroom two-storey semi in Cradley Road, Netherton, since 'amicably' splitting from his wife and two children following the breakdown of their marriage in the summer of 2015.

The body of window fitter Mr Johnson, who was banned for drink driving, was discovered when colleague Max Richardson came to collect him for work around three hours after the murder on August 11 last year.

The front door was locked and the living room window wide open with tell tale smears of blood around the frame.

Mr Richardson said of his friend: "He saw the good in everyone and got on with everyone."

Forensic officers outside the house on Cradley Road

The gregarious father of two, who kept a quad bike in the living room, was also a heavy cannabis user with a chaotic home life.

Sadly he paid no heed to the earlier warnings about the danger of asking strangers to his home after a chance meeting with Jack Griffin at the Waggon and Horses in Cradley Heath on August 5.

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The teenager and his friends Clayton Pritchard and Abbey Hughes, all of whom were aged 18, accepted the invitation to carry on drinking at the Cradley Road address.

Griffin repaid the act of kindness by stealing the host's mobile phone and selling it for £180 the following day.

Unfortunately Mr Johnson made the mistake of showing Pritchard a £7,500 cannabis farm being cultivated in an upstairs room opposite his bedroom.

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The teenager wasted no time in telling his friends, triggering a sequence of events that led to murder.

A knife thought to be the murder weapon was found in the front garden

The victim’s brother-in-law Josh Denny, who had known him for 18 years, explained: "I knew he took drugs recreationally and grew cannabis at one stage before being told to stop by his landlord.”

Mr Richardson recalled: “Simon smoked a lot of weed and had shown me the grow. It was 15 or so plants under lamps in a tent. He said he was not responsible for it, just renting out the room. He said it helped to pay the bills.”

It also cost him his life after Griffin and his two friends called at Mr Johnson’s home again on the evening of August 10 to give him a replacement mobile phone.

This move was probably driven by greed rather than generosity - a trick to get back into the house where the teenagers now knew they could steal cannabis.

Mr Denny was at the house when they arrived and recalled: "Si was in good spirits and had just loaned me a bike rack for my car.

"He returned from answering the door with three kids I had never seen before and did not introduce them. They spoke to him about a lost mobile phone - his had been pinched. They said they knew who had stolen it and had got a new one for him. He was very grateful."

After Mr Denny left, Mr Johnson and the three teenagers spent the evening drinking, smoking cannabis, playing video games and watching TV until he decided to go to bed, allegedly locking the front door and telling the trio of visitors to leave through the unlocked living room window.

They fled after each secretly took a cannabis plant, starting a chain reaction involving their friends in a string of carbon copy break ins to steal more plants from the address.

It ended in tragedy just hours later when Mr Johnson was stabbed four times - one blow almost severed his aorta - after being woken by two of the thieves.

Each had a knife to strip the plants but one of these was used to end the life of a harmless man and destroy the lives of two young men.

John Scott

By John Scott
Reporter/News Feature Writer

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