Shropshire Star

Telford man who stabbed neighbour to death in row over squirrels is detained under Mental Health Act

A man who stabbed his neighbour to death in a row over squirrels has been detained under the Mental Health Act.

Police at the scene in Fowler Close, Wellington

John William Walker, 65, was sentenced at Stafford Crown Court today after admitting the manslaughter of 52-year-old Mark Espley on grounds of diminished responsibility in October last year.

The court heard there was a difficult relationship between the pair who were neighbours at maisonette-style flats in Fowler Close, Wellington, with a shared communal garden.

Walker’s mental health took a downturn after his pet Chihuahua Tilly died in July 2021, leading to him befriending local squirrel by feeding them nuts.

The increased squirrel population in the communal garden area was much to the annoyance of other neighbours, including Mr Espley.

On the morning of Saturday, June 18 2022, Walker waited in the communal garden for a number of hours and confronted the victim with a kitchen knife.

When Mr Espley appeared, he was stabbed a number of times by Walker and died at the scene.

Police were called by a neighbour but Walker voluntarily attended Malinsgate police station and admitted what he had done.

Police tape at the scene in Fowler Close, Wellington

He was initially charged with murder, but a guilty plea to manslaughter owing to diminished responsibility was accepted in November 2022 following psychiatric reports.

Judge Christina Montgomery KC said that the lead up to the killing triggered “dormant symptoms” in the 65-year-old.

Defence counsel, Philippa McAtasney KC, said Walker was “very distressed and genuinely full of remorse”.

Senior Investigating Officer Detective Inspector Lee Holehouse said: “This is clearly a tragic case. At the time of the offence, Walker was suffering from an abnormality of mental functioning arising from a recognised medical condition.

“We would like to thank members of the public and the local community in Wellington who supported and assisted with the investigation and I hope that the sentencing provides some degree of comfort for Mr Espley’s family.”

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