'This is a truly horrific case': Wigan teens jailed for killing dad found in canal
Scott Anderton, 33, was found floating in the Leeds-Liverpool Canal in Leigh on the morning of March 25, having suffered 35 separate injuries.
Now, Liam Bailey, 19, of Diamond Street, Leigh, Liam O’Brien, 17, of Scholes, Scholes, and Harry Maher, 16, of Green Lane, Standish, have all been jailed for the roles they played in his death.
During a hearing at Manchester Crown Court on Friday, Judge Alan Conrad QC said their crimes were “all the more shocking” because of their ages.
“This is a truly horrific case. The scale and the savagery of the violence used almost defy belief,” he said.
Restrictions on reporting anything which could identify O’Brien and Maher due to their ages were lifted by Judge Conrad QC, as he felt the public interest in knowing who they were outweighed other matters.
Bailey was jailed for life with a minimum term of 23 years and four months after pleading guilty to murder.
Maher was detained for a minimum of 16 years after being found guilty of murder by a jury, while O’Brien must serve 10 years after being convicted of manslaughter.
Bailey and O’Brien were also sentenced for inflicting grievous bodily harm on a 40-year-old man who suffered life-changing injuries from a late night attack near Leigh town centre on September 1 last year.
Bailey was also sentenced for attempting to rob a young man in the hours before Mr Anderton’s murder.
The trio had been in Leigh town centre when they came across Mr Anderton at about 4am with a plastic carrier bag, wearing a bobble hat and only one shoe.
CCTV footage then showed them at the entrance to the canal on King Street and at 4.30am ripples on the surface of the water indicated when Mr Anderton entered the canal after a ferocious attack.
The court heard “pack leader” Bailey had attacked Mr Anderton with a large knife or machete and Maher used a metal pole, neither of which have been found.
Sentencing, Judge Conrad QC said: “Scott Anderton suffered 35 sharp force wounds, some of them penetrating deep and some even cutting bone as well as a number of blunt force injuries. Having been so terribly injured, he was thrown into the canal while he was still alive. While he was in there, you watched him struggle for life, taunted him and let him die.
“You went back an hour later to see what you had done and then, after a trip to Manchester, returned again to observe and film the police activity.
“The physical and mental suffering that Scott Anderton much have undergone during his last minutes are too horrible to contemplate.”
He said the trio did not kill Mr Anderton for money and it was a “killing for killing sake”.
Statements from Mr Anderton’s relatives were read in court, in which he was described as having a “massive heart”, always smiling, loving his children, nieces and nephews, and working alongside his dad.
His grandmother Irene Anderton said she visited his grave several times a week to feel close to him, while his dad Darren Anderton does not visit as it would mean accepting his son had died.
His brother and sisters said: “The days now seem darker and on days like his birthday, when we should be celebrating, we are mourning his death.”
The court heard Bailey and O’Brien attacked Dennis Unsworth in September 2020 with weapons including a bottle and a piece of wood.
It caused “significant and long-lasting changes” in him and while he was already a vulnerable man, the injuries meant he lost his independence.
Judge Conrad QC said the attack could easily have led to another murder charge and the court heard Mr Unsworth would probably have died if he had not been found soon after.
Mark Ford QC, representing Bailey, highlighted that his client had pleaded guilty and gave evidence in the trial.
He said his childhood was “traumatic” and he was under the influence of alcohol and drugs - which he had been introduced to as a child - on the night of Mr Anderton’s death.
O’Brien had mental health difficulties, learning needs and a lack of support from his family, the court heard.
Maher’s barrister Ian Unsworth QC said his client’s pre-sentence report detailed the “bleak picture of his 16 years so far”, which included being known to the local authority since birth and being subject to physical and verbal abuse.
The court heard Bailey had been given a youth caution in January 2020 after being found with a 10in kitchen knife at Rugby railway station, and on July 10 last year he was found with a large machete in his trousers on Diamond Street in Leigh.
He assaulted Mr Unsworth on September 1, before being given a referral order by the youth court later that month for having the machete. But he failed to comply with this order fully and was still subject to it when Mr Anderton was murdered.
At the end of the hearing, Judge Conrad QC asked for an explanation in writing from the police as to why Bailey was free to walk the streets and kill Mr Anderton after the earlier offences.
Afterwards, Det Ch Insp Liz Hopkinson, from Greater Mancheter Police’s major incident team, said: “This was an extremely violent, callous and unprovoked attack that cost a man his life.
“They showed absolutely no remorse for their heinous actions, ignoring his cries for help, before watching him die in the canal. In a final act of evil, they then returned to the scene of the crime to take videos.
“Thankfully due to the extensive CCTV enquiries we were able to quickly pin point their movements that evening and morning and established that all three of them had been with the victim and were involved in his death.
“Although we will not be able to bring Scott back I hope today’s significant sentence provides a sense of justice and closure for his family and loved ones. I’m glad all three will now be behind bars for the foreseeable and will not be able to inflict any further damage or injuries.”
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