Thugs jailed for mur­der of stu­dent on night out

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page - by Keith Hunt khunt@thek­m­group.co.uk

TWO thugs who killed “a thor­oughly de­cent lad” in a night of mind­less vi­o­lence have been jailed for life.

Zion Covey, 21, will serve a min­i­mum of 13 years and 20-year-old Gareth Pow­ell 12 years be­fore be­ing con­sid­ered for pa­role.

The drunken pair punched and kicked stu­dent Ben Neil­son, 21, of Es­sella Road, Willes­bor­ough, out­side the Foun­tain ke­bab shop in Ash­ford town cen­tre on April 20.

Covey, of Lynsted Close, Stan­hope, Ash­ford, and Pow­ell, of Ben­sted, South Ash­ford, were con­victed of mur­der by a 10-2 ma­jor­ity ver­dict.

‘Ham­mered’

They had de­nied the charge, along with an al­ter­na­tive of man­slaugh­ter.

Pass­ing sen­tence, Judge An­thony Leonard QC said Covey played the lead­ing role, while Pow­ell backed up his friend.

“Ben went out with his friends for the evening for fun and en­joy­ment, dur­ing which, in my judge­ment, he showed no ag­gres­sion and did not drink very much,” he told them.

“It all came to an end when you at­tacked him. In con­trast, you had been drink­ing heav­ily. One wit­ness de­scribed you, Covey, as be­ing ‘ham­mered’.”

The judge said they were spoil­ing for a fight by the time they left Liq­uid night­club in the early hours and went to the ke­bab shop.

“Ben tried to calm you down and be­came a vic­tim of your ag­gres­sion and vi­o­lence,” he said.

“Kick­ing him on the ground was not only de­spi­ca­ble, but showed your in­ten­tion to cause him se­ri­ous in­jury that night.”

Judge Leonard said Ben was in the top 10 per cent at uni­ver­sity and had a promis­ing ca­reer ahead of him. He will be awarded a post­hu­mous de­gree.

“I am con­scious no sen­tence I pass will make up for the loss of his life,” he added.

Seven months spent on re­mand will count to­wards the duo’s sen­tences.

The judge said Covey and Pow­ell were in­volved in a se­ries of ag­gres­sive acts dur­ing the evening. CCTV at the ke­bab shop showed that even their own friends were hav­ing trou­ble keep­ing them un­der con­trol.

Un­con­scious

Ben was punched three or four times and there were about two kicks as he lay help­less and un­con­scious on the ground.

Judge Leonard said even Covey had de­scribed it as “gra­tu­itous vi­o­lence”.

He had writ­ten a let­ter ex­press­ing his re­morse and the judge said he had no doubt Pow­ell felt the same way.

Judge Leonard said he had de­cided to make a dis­tinc­tion be­tween the two be­cause Covey played the lead­ing role and Pow­ell was slightly younger.

The min­i­mum tar­iff was set on the ba­sis of an in­ten­tion to cause re­ally se­ri­ous bod­ily harm, rather than to kill, and a lack of pre­med­i­ta­tion. The judge added that such vi­o­lence in a pub­lic place which led to death was a prob­lem which be­dev­illed town cen­tres such as Ash­ford.

Covey and Pow­ell, both dressed in track­suit bot­toms and ca­sual shirts, showed no emo­tion when sen­tence was passed.

Fam­ily and sup­port­ers of Covey and Pow­ell wept, while Ben’s fam­ily and friends re­mained si­lent.

Covey had pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions for dis­hon­esty, crim­i­nal dam­age and as­sault caus­ing ac­tual bod­ily harm. Pow­ell had no pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions.

Jonathan Higgs, pros­e­cut­ing, said the for­mer Nor­ton Knatch­bull School pupil was struck a heavy blow to the head and was be­lieved to be un­con­scious by the time he hit the ground. He was then kicked by both Covey and Pow­ell.

Ben was taken to hospi­tal “in a ter­ri­ble state” and died a week later from cat­a­strophic and ir­re­versible brain dam­age.

Covey de­nied be­ing re­spon­si­ble for the blow that caused Ben’s death. Pow­ell did not give ev­i­dence.

The fu­neral of Ben Neil­son: ‘To un­der­stand what we have lost, you re­ally needed know Ben,’ said his par­ents

JAILED: Gareth Pow­ell – helped his friend with at­tack

JAILED: Zion Covey - spoil­ing for a fight

VIC­TIM: Ben Neil­son, 21, who was fa­tally in­jured

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