Thugs jailed for killing disabled man who died 13 years after Hednesford attack

Four men who attacked a disabled man in his car have been jailed after he died 13 years after the attack.

Hednesford man Craig Robins was attacked in 2006 and died in 2019
Hednesford man Craig Robins was attacked in 2006 and died in 2019

Craig Robins died in 2019 after being knifed by Gavin Brown and attacked by James Milligan and brothers Bernie and Kyle Smith in Hednesford in 2006.

The men had all previously been sentenced for their part in the attack prior to Mr Robins' death, but were each given new jail terms on Friday.

While Brown was given a life term for murder, his minimum sentence is 14 months due to time he has already served behind bars.

Milligan and the Smith brothers were also given reduced minimum terms for manslaughter due to previous time they have served for the attack.

Mr Robins, a jeweller, was aged 27 and already paralysed when he was beaten in his car in Lomax Road in October 2006.

He never regained consciousness and was cared for by his family for 24 hours a day until he died from sepsis aged 40 on March 18, 2019.

Prosecutor Jeremy Benson QC said Mr Robins had reported to the police that his adapted vehicle had been damaged and was "fearful" he had been targeted by locals because he was disabled.

The victim took a knife or machete with him and drove around the Hednesford estate trying to find out who was responsible before he arrived at Lomax Road.

Gavin Brown had previously been jailed for 14 years for attempted murder over the same attack

The four killers were attending nearby house party and Bernie Smith, who was outside at the time, returned inside and told the others someone in a car had threatened him.

Mr Benson QC said Brown seized Mr Robins' machete and dealt him nine blows to the head and neck. Kyle and Bernie Smith "punched and kicked" the victim while Milligan picked up a brick and threw it through the open car window.

The defendants ran off from the scene, leaving the victim bleeding from his wounds with critical brain injuries. He would never regain consciousness.

The four men were arrested shortly afterwards and Brown went on to admit attempted murder. The other three defendants pleaded guilty to violent disorder.

Brown was then charged with murder and the other men with manslaughter nearly two years after Mr Robins' death.

At the sentencing hearing at Stafford Crown Court, a victim impact statement from Mr Robins' mother Linda was read out by prosecutor Mr Benson QC.

Bernie Smith, left, and his brother Kyle Smith, right, were both convicted of manslaughter after a trial

It said the family had "lost our son twice" – the first being the initial attack where "they took everything away from him" and then when he passed away 13 years later.

Mrs Robins added she was "struggling to find words" to explain how devastated the family are and how their lives "changed beyond recognition" in an instant on October 30, 2006.

She said the family had went through their "own form of Covid lockdown for 13 years" before Covid had even existed, adding the family is "haunted" by what happened that night.

Judge Kristina Montgomery QC said the men's reaction to being threatened had been "wholly disproportionate" and gave 37-year-old Brown, who is already in prison at HMP Lancaster, a life sentence. However his minimum term was reduced from 16 years and two months to 14 months due to time served. In 2007 he was jailed for 14 years for attempted murder but has never been released.

Milligan, 42 and of Canford Place, Hednesford Road, Cannock, was jailed for six years and seven months but this was reduced to two years due to time served.

He had initially been jailed for three years for violent disorder in 2007, which he served in full, and went on to admit manslaughter in September this year.

Kyle and Bernie Smith had both denied manslaughter but were found guilty after a trial.

Kyle Smith, 33, and of Pebble Mill Drive, Cannock, was given an eight-year term reduced to four years and nine months due to mitigation and time served. Back in 2007 he had been jailed for two years and three months.

Bernie Smith, 31 and of Rowley Close, Hednesford, was handed an eight-year term for manslaughter reduced to two-and-a-half years. However his total sentence was six-and-a-half years due to supplying Class A and Class B drugs in a separate incident.

The judge said the reaction from the men – after Bernie Smith had allegedly been threatened – was "instantaneous" and "wholly disproportionate" and "unlawful".

Stafford Crown Court heard that Brown, through his barrister, wanted to offer his "sincere apologies" to Mr Robins' family but added "nothing he says" would make up for what he did.

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