Jonathan Barton: Clift Guilty Of Murder

14 October 2011, 10:47 | Updated: 14 October 2011, 11:06

A former boxer's been convicted of murdering a man he attacked with a screwdriver more than ten years ago.

Despite having already served a five year prison sentence for causing young Tesco worker Jonathan Barton grievous bodily harm, 31 year old Leigh Clift now faces a life sentence after being found guilty of the murder.

Jonathan - who was 19 when he was attacked - was left with appalling injuries. He had suffered a catastrophic brain injury, which left him in a semi-vegetative state (right).

Jonathan was cared for by his devoted mother Kim.  He was unable to feed himself or even swallow and his only way of communicating was by facial movements or a hand movement.

After the attack by Clift in September 2000 in a pub carpark in Bletchley, Milton Keynes, Jonathan didn't die until 2009.  By then, Clift has served his sentence for causing the young warehouse worker's grievous bodily harm.

After the death, Clift was arrested once more and, in January of this year, charged with Jonathan's murder.

It followed medical findings carried out after Jonathan's death that despite the length of time that had past, he had died as a result of the horrendous attack nine years earlier.

At Luton Crown Court on Thursday 13 October 2011, Mr Justice Saunders said "a life sentence" would be passed but he said he needed time to consider how long Clift must serve behind bars.

"This is an unusual situation and I will get all the help I can," he said before Clift was remanded in custody.

Outside the court, Jonathan's mother Kim Barton, flanked by her three other sons, Aaron, 25, James, 31 and Anthony, 27, said "we are so relieved this ordeal is over.  It's justice for Jonathan, but there are no winners."

Earlier in the court's public gallery after the jury returned it's verdict, she had passed a box of tissues to the young woman partner of Clift, who sobbed uncontrollably.

Kim said:  "Now we just want Jonathan to rest in peace.  We will try to re-build our lives even though there a gaping great hole that he left behind."

Kim, who had her home converted to look after her son, and who became his full time carer, said "I am just so grateful we had him all that time after what happened.  He gave us moments of complete joy with his smile and he has left us with some beautiful memories."

Clift, who lived at Lincolnshire Close, Bletchley, was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Jonathan at Aylesbury Crown Court in January 2002 and served five years of a ten year sentence.

Jonathan, described by his family as a good boy with a caring nature, who was a bit of a joker, was 19 when he was attacked.

On 8 September 2000, he finished work at a Tesco warehouse in Fenny Lock, Milton Keynes and, with colleagues, went to The Beacon pub in Mount Farm.

It was a Friday and pay day and workers from two different sections of Tesco had gathered in the pool room and in the front bar.  There that afternoon was the defendant, who was 20 at the time, and with a friend.

The jury heard how the atmosphere in the pub changed when a man from the front bar came into the pool room and tried to chat up a girl, leaving her boyfriend angry.

Word spread through the pub that trouble was brewing.

A friend of the defendant was heard to say:  "If they want to start, I will give them something.  I ain't gonna back down."

Clift and his friend left the pub and the defendant winked "provocatively" at Jonathan.

The court heard that Jonathan and a friend left the bar and went outside, where there was a further argument with Clift.

Clift was seen at his friend's car boot and the prosecution said it was then that he was getting the screwdriver.

Moments later, Clift was seen with a screwdriver in his hand and Jonathan laying on the ground bleeding from his head.

Clift ran off, discarding the screwdriver and a top he had been wearing.

After being rushed to hospital, it was discovered that a wound from the screwdriver had passed through the left side of Jonathan's head and into his brain and across to the right side.

He was to spend the rest of his life in hospitals, rehabilitation units and at home, where his mother had an extension built to look after him.

Jonathan had to be fed through a tube inserted into his stomach.

In July 2009, he was admitted to Milton Keynes Hospital for the tube to be checked.  On 10 July it was surgically re-inserted but, in the early hours of 11 July, Jonathan become unwell and suffered a cardio-respiratory arrest and died.

The court was told that a post mortem revealed the tube had been inserted correctly, but the supply of blood and oxygen to his small bowel had been compromised because of an obstruction caused by the small bowel twisting around on itself.

It had been the conclusion of a medical expert that there was a direct link between the attack on Jonathan in 2000 which had led to him being fitted with the tube and the complication which led to his death.