Hemel Killer Jailed

29 June 2012, 18:00

17 year-old Darren McGrath has been sent to prison for the murder of Billy Dove.

Mr Dove, a former student at West Herts College, died in November 2011 after suffering a single stab wound to the chest.

CCTV footage of the incident was played in court which showed an angry McGrath advance on Billy and deliver the fatal blow which pierced his heart and lungs.

Members of Billy's family sobbed in the public gallery at St Albans Crown Court as the images were played to Judge Stephen Bullick who was hearing the case.

McGrath, 17, pleaded guilty to the murder which happened in Hemel Hempstead town centre last November late at night.

Ordering that McGrath be "detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure" and telling him he will remain in custody for a minimum period of 14 years, the judge said "Billy Dove was the only child of his parents. He was 21 years old when he died. He was a fine young man who was well liked and hard working. No sentence which I can pass can, I apprehend assuage their grief and the grief of those who knew their son."

The judge also lifted the order preventing McGrath of Essex Mead, Hemel Hempstead from being identified. Billy who lived with his family in Hemel Hempstead had gone out on the evening of November 5 last year with his friends to a firework party. At the end of the night he and the group were in Hemel Hempstead town centre.

Ian Wade QC prosecuting said also in town that night was the defendant along with two friends and was on supervision and licence having been released from a detention and training order a few months earlier for stabbing a schoolboy in the thigh and supplying undercover police officers with drugs.

CCTV cameras caught McGrath attacking Mr Dove who was seen to go to the rescue of some of his friends who were being attacked during an incident in the town.

A punch he threw at the 17 year-old missed and McGrath then stabbed him in the chest with fatal consequence.

The knife passed between Billy's ribs, entered one lung, the chambers of his heart and then the other lung.

He managed to stagger towards a paramedic's car parked in the square but collapsed and died soon afterwards.

Today the court heard that a tree beside the spot where Billy died now has a plaque commemorating him.

A statement from Billy's father Paul was read out in court in which he said "No parent should ever receive a phone call to say their only son has been murdered."

Mark Milliken-Smith for McGrath said his plea of guilty and his remorse could never ever make up for the loss he has caused.

After previously admitting to the murder of Billy Dove last November, today at St Albans Crown Court Darren McGrath from Essex Mead in Hemel Hempstead (pictured) was sentenced to serve 14 years.

Billy Dove's mum Anne Grillo and sisters Jodie and Lucy have released the following tribute:

"Billy was an amazing son, brother, uncle and friend and we were truly blessed to have him, he was adorable. At the age of 11 months we nearly lost Billy to meningitis but he survived and this made him even more special. He only ever saw the good in people and was always the first to be called to go out with friends.  He was truly loved by everyone. 

That night in November has changed our lives forever. There will be a void in our hearts for the rest of time and our family will never be complete. Christmas and birthdays will never be the same. We have been brutally robbed of seeing him grow, get married and have children. He has been robbed of his dreams and we have been robbed of our dreams for him. Life will never be the same again. 

We feel nothing but anger towards McGrath. No sentence is good enough for what he has done to Billy. He is young enough to have a life when he eventually leaves prison. Our Billy will have none of that. We hope he lives with his guilt for the rest of his days.

We have always known just how popular Billy was and this has been supported by the overwhelming response we have had from the community of Hemel Hempstead and beyond. We are truly grateful to everyone and take a great deal of comfort from this. Nothing will bring Billy back which is heart-breaking but we are working towards something positive and have committed ourselves to helping to tackle knife crime. 

Billy Dove

We have organised a memorial football day at Hemel Hempstead Football Club on Sunday, August 26 (from 12pm) which we have called Billy's Day. It is our way of thanking the people and businesses of Hemel for their support. Everyone is welcome to join us and remember our gorgeous Billy. We will be raising money for the Ben Kinsella Trust to support the amazing work they do to stop knife crime."

Following the sentencing, Detective Constable Jason Rice, of the Major Crime Unit told Heart: "Billy was an innocent party in all of this. He was purely enjoying time out with friends when he became involved in a fight and was brutally stabbed. This led to an innocent life being taken.

Disappointingly, none of those sentenced have shown real remorse for what they have done. McGrath is only 17 and he was on license for a previous stabbing and I am pleased he will be in prison for some time.

Our thoughts are firmly with Billy's family who understandably have been living a nightmare. No sentence can change what has happened Billy, or make up for the suffering his family have endured."