Guilty of murder five years after knife attack

John Berry - guilty
John Berry - guilty

A WIGAN landlord whose knife attack led to his lodger’s death five years later was facing life behind bars today after he was convicted of murder.

Dean Owen suffered a serious wound to his abdomen in May 2007 after John Berry stabbed him and a jury took just 13 minutes yesterday to find that it was that injury which eventually led to his death.

Berry, 44, was convicted in April 2008 of wounding Mr Owen with intent but on May 19, 2012, his victim died from blood poisoning and because it was alleged this resulted from the original injury Berry was later recharged with murder.

He denied that offence and at the start of his trial last week Mark Heywood, QC, prosecuting, told the jury: “It must be shown it was one substantial cause of death.But for that wound would he have died?”

The jury of 10 women and two men decided that the stabbing had led to the victim’s death and Berry, who is now wheelchair-bound because kidney problems have affected his legs, is to be sentenced later this month.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that when Berry was convicted of the wounding offence he was sentenced to eight years and was released after half that term in April 2012.

However 13 months later because he breached his licence conditions by having knives at his accommodation he was recalled to prison and has been there ever since, said Mr Heywood.

Judge David Aubrey, QC, who described the eight-year sentence as having been “merciful,” told the jury that he agreed with their verdict.

He ordered a medical report from the prison service about Berry’s physical condition and further remanded him in custody to await sentence on July 29.

“The only sentence the court can impose is life imprisonment but I have to consider the appropriate minimum term,” he told Berry, who showed no emotion.

During the four-day trial, at which Berry did not give evidence, the jury heard that Mr Owen had at one time been a fit and healthy family man with three children and working as a welder. But by 2007, when he was aged 38, he was separated from his family and living in Berry’s first floor flat in Loch Street, Pemberton.

They had shared the property for two years with him sleeping on a sofa while his landlord Berry slept in the bedroom.

On the evening of May 21, 2007 Mr Owen was in the flat asleep after drinking cider when he was awoken by the sound of someone coming up the stairs and thinking it might be a third party he kicked out.

It was Berry and he stopped kicking out at him and went back to bed. He could then hear Berry, who was irritated by the incident, messing around with knives he had in his bedroom. Berry then came into the room carrying a machete and knife and stabbed Mr Owen in the abdomen “and continued to thrust it and it was buried in his body.”

Mr Heywood said that the weapon that caused the injury was the knife and although Berry told him not to call an ambulance he did so and was taken to Wigan Infirmary.

During the 999 call Berry could be heard making threats, such as “***ing die.” When police arrived the victim said he did not feel well and collapsed.

Although Mr Owen at first appeared to be making a good recovery he suffered many serious medical complications in the coming months and years and eventually, the court heard, he became less compliant with medical help, missed appointments and turned to drink for “comfort”.

On May 17, 2012, he was found unconscious following a fall and his condition deteriorated rapidly progressing to septic shock from blood poisoning and he died two days later.

Mr Heywood said that pathologists found that while he had suffered a brain injury through the fall that was not responsible for his death. They discovered that part of his bowel was dead which gave rise to infection and the fatal septicaemia.