A 15-year-old boy has been detained for life for the “senseless” murder of a shopper after a row in a Redditch supermarket toilet, having travelled to the Worcestershire town planning to rob and deal drugs.
The youngster was convicted of the killing following a trial last month, where a jury heard how 53-year-old Ian Kirwan was knifed in the heart by the boy – then aged 14 – acting as a part of a masked gang which “terrorised” members of the public.
The youth was ordered to be detained for a minimum of 14 years.
Sentencing the killer, on Wednesday, Mr Justice Fraser said: “Mr Kirwan’s murder is a tragedy and so utterly senseless that it defies description.
“It is also a stark reminder – if society were to need one – of the danger of young people carrying knives with them as a matter of routine.”
“During the period of this trial, the media have been reporting fatal stabbings on a depressingly regular basis,” he added.
The killer, from Birmingham – who cannot be named for legal reasons despite an application by the press, travelled with other boys by train to the town on March 8 last year, where Mr Kirwan was subjected to a minute-long attack near the entrance of an Asda store.
Jurors cleared the three other youths – now aged 14, 15 and 16 – of murder and manslaughter, but found them guilty of violent disorder.
The older boy had also previously admitted having the 12-inch kitchen knife used for the fatal attack.
They were each handed youth rehabilitation orders.
They travelled with an intention to “stain” – street slang meaning to rob – as well “attempt to deal in drugs”.
The judge said the group had caused trouble on the train, and the town centre “storming, en masse, into a nail bar and stealing items including a wrench”, also “abusing members of the public and seeking a confrontation”, which was “all indicative of a general plan”.
By contrast “blameless” and “generous” Mr Kirwan, who with his wife, had earlier been looking after a friend’s foster child, had gone to buy a light switch before using Asda’s toilets where the youths banged the door of his cubicle and shouted abuse at him.
On leaving the store “it was Mr Kirwan’s fatal misfortune” that “he came across that group again”, where an altercation started.
The killer shouted “if you want trouble, you can have trouble”, before drawing a carving knife from the waistband of another youth.
The killer then stabbed Mr Kirwan once in the heart, with another member of the callous group even chasing the fatally injured and retreating Mr Kirwan into the store, where he collapsed on the floor, as members of the public and later paramedics battled in vain to save him.
The judge told the murderer, sat silently in the dock while members of his family watched from a packed public gallery: “I find that you intended to kill Mr Kirwan… and stabbed him directly in the chest.”
The attackers then fled, dropping the knife in a roadside drain – where it was later recovered using a police dog – before attempting to cover their tracks, deleting messages and data off their mobile phones.
They also feared one of their number had “snitched”, when the killer was later arrested – although it turned out the boy’s mother had driven him to a police station, where he handed himself in.
A 10-week trial was told Mr Kirwan, an artificial intelligence engineer who worked at Jaguar Land Rover’s Coventry headquarters, was an “unfortunate member of the public in the wrong place at the wrong time”.
“Ian Kirwan never came home, and died on the floor of a supermarket, murdered by a teenager for no reason at all, surrounded by strangers, who tried their best to help him.
“No sentence passed can ever put that right, or bring Mr Kirwan back.”
The murderer, wearing a suit, nodded to family members as he was led away to begin his sentence.
His barrister Narita Bahra KC, earlier told the judge of her client’s remorse, and how he had told one key worker: “I feel really sad about it but I can’t go back in time and change it.
“I want to say sorry to the family but it’s not good enough.”
Earlier, in a victim personal statement read to court by Benjamin Aina KC, prosecuting, Mr Kirwan’s wife Lyndsey Blythe said she and her husband had “longed” for a child, having undergone unsuccessful rounds of IVF.
“Our plan in 2022 was to look into adopting,” she said.
“That chance has now been taken away from Ian, and he’ll never have the chance to be called Daddy.”
“Ian was my rock, my soulmate, my husband,” she said.
“Ian didn’t deserve to die.”