Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Timothy Colwell -- Crime Watch Gone Wrong

A respected jazz saxophonist who played with the British musical institution Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen in the 1960s, the 65-year-old musician continued to receive regular BBC airplay with his group, Timothy Colwell's Jazzfriends.  On the evening of September 19, 2003, Colwell was at home in his ground-floor flat in Lymington, Hants when someone outside began shouting and banging on his windows.  The musician had been a target of verbal taunts, graffiti abuse, and violent threats for months since phoning police to report truants congregating in a park near his home.  His practice of sometimes photographing the neighborhood toughs led the youths to falsely brand him as a pedophile.  Two weeks earlier, someone (later identified as Richard Harris) crashed a tractor tire through his living room window.  When Colwell left his apartment on what proved to be the final night of his life and walked to the nearby playground to investigate the disturbance, Richard Harris, 20, and Daniel Newham, 17, knocked the elderly man to the ground, and repeatedly punched and kicked him.  Neighbors intervened, but Colwell collapsed as he walked back to his flat.  Shortly afterwards, he died in hospital without regaining consciousness.  While Colwell had a previous heart condition, it was ruled that the assault was so brutal that it could have caused a heart attack in a healthy 65-year-old while the kicks to his head were sufficient to have killed a 25-year-old.

Harris, who boasted of liking to hurt animals and acting like a vigilante, was on parole for two earlier violent assaults at the time of his attack on Colwell.  Conversely, Newham had no previous convictions and apparently came from a decent, supportive family.  At trial in February 2005, both men were cleared of murder charges, but found guilty of manslaughter.  At a hearing in London in April 2005, Mrs. Justice Harlett sentenced Richard Harris to life imprisonment with a recommendation that he serve a minimum of three years before being considered for parole.  "It is clear that, whether or not you are mentally disordered," the judge told Harris, "your personality is such that you are likely to remain a danger for many years to come, possibly forever."  Daniel Newham was sentenced to five years youth custody."

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