Brighton murder: Four men guilty of killing Bill Henham
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Four men have been found guilty of murdering student Bill Henham at a New Year’s Eve party in Brighton two years ago.
Bill was beaten unconscious and dropped into a recessed courtyard, within a disused building in North Street on January 1, 2020.
The 24-year-old, from Henfield, suffered extensive injuries, having been savagely beaten, kicked, stamped on and struck with a wooden bannister spindle.
Dushane Meikle, 28, of Amberley Drive, Hove, Gregory Hawley, 29, of no fixed address, Lamech Gordon-Carew, 20, of Cheeseman Close, Hampton, Middlesex and 18-year-old Alize Spence, of Academy Gardens, Croydon, were convicted on Thursday (24 February) following a 10-week trial at Maidstone Crown Court, Kent. They had all denied murdering Bill.
Two of the convicted defendants Alize Spence and Duschane Meikle
The other two convicted defendants Gregory Hawley and Lamech Gordon-Carew
Police were called to the disused four-storey building, a former office block with bar and restaurant, after receiving information on 2 January that a man had been beaten and dropped off a balcony during a party at the location, which was being used as a squat. Officers attended and discovered Bill Henham’s body in a recessed courtyard, accessed from a flat roof terrace at the rear of the building.
The exterior of the disused building
A post-mortem examination revealed Bill had been beaten unconscious and suffered multiple injuries, including a brain haemorrhage, eleven rib fractures, extensive cuts and bruising to the scalp, face, and neck. All were consistent with being punched, kicked and stamped on.
A murder investigation was launched by the Sussex and Surrey Major Crime Team.
Detectives began the extensive process of securing the building, trawling through hours of CCTV, identifying witnesses and those who had attended the New Year’s Eve party at the building. The premises, which has been used as a squat, was spread over several floors and comprised many separate rooms. There was also the enormous task of seizing hundreds of exhibits and conducting meticulous forensic examinations.
Officers established that Bill, who studied at Ravensbourne University in London, had spent Christmas with his family in Henfield but wanted to see in the New Year in a “lively” atmosphere in Brighton. Bill’s father gave him a lift into Brighton, dropping him off close to the city centre on the evening of 31 December.
Trawls of CCTV revealed Bill leaving a nightclub on the seafront, before the final sighting of him at 4.30am on New Year's Day in a convenience store in North Street, near the squat where the New Year's Eve party was held.
CCTV footage of Bill in North Street
Tragically, it appears that Bill was killed within a few hours of going to the party. He was subjected to 'a sustained and significant' assault, that left him with over 60 injuries including multiple broken ribs and a brain injury.
Forensic evidence showed the attack had started on the second floor of the building before Bill had been dragged or pulled to a small room measuring no more than 4m by 2m on the first-floor for the beating to continue.
Bill was then dropped over railings at the edge of a flat roof terrace, into a recessed courtyard some 11ft below.
Bill had been stripped of his clothing and it was apparent disinfectant had been used to wash his body and other areas of diluted bloodstaining in the building indicated attempts had been made to clear up after the brutal assault.
Police quickly arrested four men and a 16-year-old boy in connection with Bill's death, acting on information received from witnesses at the party.
Three of the suspects partying on the balcony of the building
One of those arrested, Gregory Hawley, described as 'in charge of the squat', was said to have laughed and joked about the attack and allegedly confessed to stripping Bill's body and dousing him in bleach before throwing him out of a window.
Hawley was also seen a few hours later with a bleach bottle and cloth just a few feet from the same room where Bill was assaulted and others involved were alleged to continue boasting about it once they had moved to a second squat nearby.
The empty disinfectant bottle found at the scene and forensically linked to Bill
Another of the arrested men, Dushane Meikle, was later found to have two deleted photos of Bill's body - one partially clothed and one naked - on his mobile phone.
A witness also picked out three of the suspects; Hawley, Lamech Gordon-Carew and Meikle, in police identity procedures.
The suspects were all were released under investigation in order for detectives to continue their complex and far-reaching investigation.
Following 16 months of painstaking investigative and forensic work, in May and June 2021 three of the four arrested men, and the arrested boy (now aged 18), were charged with Bill’s murder. The remaining arrested man was released without further action.
Gordon-Carew's blood stained shoe forensically linked to Bill
Meikle's coat forensically linked to Bill
The four defendants, who had all denied the charge, were found guilty of the murder of Bill Henham by a jury following a 10-week trial at Maidstone Crown Court on Tuesday (24 February).
Prosecutor James Mulholland QC had told the court that although the motive for Bill's murder had been 'unclear', all four men had either participated in the physical attack upon Bill or deliberately helped or encouraged one or more of the others to do so in the early hours of New Year's Day, 2020.
Each intended in doing so that he be caused at least really serious injury and they are all guilty of murder.
They will be sentenced at a later date.
Detective Superintendent Alex Geldart said: "I, and the whole investigation team, feel privileged to have brought justice for Bill and his family, whose strength, dignity and fortitude throughout the investigation and trial has been truly humbling.
“Bill was just enjoying celebrating the New Year when his life was brutally brought to an end. Since his tragic murder, we have never given up hope that we would finally hold those responsible to account.
“This has been a lengthy and complex investigation involving a huge number of enquiries and forensic work to bring this case to court, resulting in the convictions today for this senseless killing.
"The four convicted men will now face many years in prison and we hope Bill's family will be able to find some closure, knowing that his killers are finally behind bars."
“Bill, our son and Rory’s brother, was cruelly and coldly taken from us on the morning of January 1 2020. It is hard to describe the horror of losing a family member to murder, especially in such a brutal and needless way. We cannot fathom as to why anyone would inflict such cruelty on someone so helpless.
“In the weeks before his death, Bill had been living with us at home whilst taking a break from his studies at Ravensbourne University in London, where he studied digital film production. His love of art, films and film-making has left us with many examples of his creativity.
“He was a kind and peaceful young man; a free spirit who happily chatted to those he came across. We can well imagine, in his impaired and vulnerable condition that night, he was drawn towards the squat party and went into the North Street building not understanding the danger he was putting himself in. In CCTV pictures we’ve seen of him, across the road from the squat, it hurts not to be able to make him hear our cries, warning him not to go in.
Bill Henham pictured on holiday
“These past two years have been hard for us and others, and we are very grateful for all of the kindness we have been shown, especially in what has been such a challenging few years for many. We are indebted to all of the court officers, the Crown Prosecution Service, and all of the members of the jury who we know have made personal sacrifices to see this prolongated trial through. Our gratitude is also extended to all the expert witnesses, as well as our brilliant and committed prosecution team.
“Our biggest thanks are reserved for allof the officers of Sussex Police who have helped us. So many were involved in so many different ways, all striving for the justice Bill deserves. Words alone cannot express our gratitude for their service.
“The events of that night have left us with a Bill shaped void in our lives. We’ll strive not to cry too often, but instead smile when we remember his short life especially because he shared it with us.”