Man jailed for killing 'best friend' in violent hammer attack

Man jailed for killing 'best friend' in violent hammer attack

A MAN who killed his friend in a violent hammer attack has been handed a life sentence.

Gary O'Neill, 32, was arrested after passengers on a bus from Birmingham to Glasgow overheard him talking on a phone about the attack and contacted police.

O'Neill was found not guilty of the murder of Kenneth Ford by a jury at Birmingham Crown Court on December 12, 2023.

However, during the trial he had offered a plea of manslaughter due to diminished responsibility, which was accepted.

O'Neill attacked 30-year-old Mr Ford — described by associates as O'Neill's 'best friend' — at his Birmingham bedsit on February 27, 2022.

Police attended the multi-occupancy property in Colebrook Road with paramedics after concerned friends raised the alarm.

Mr Ford was found with bruising and puncture wounds across his body, including a 10 pence-sized wound by his temple.

There was nothing that could be done to save him and he was pronounced dead at the flat.

Phone call

Around the same time, a bus passenger on a bus to Scotland called 999 to say they'd overheard a man on a phone explaining how he'd 'straightened Ken out' and suggesting he needed an ambulance.

O'Neill got off the bus in Glasgow but an officer from Police Scotland was waiting to arrest him.

He was found wearing blood-stained clothing and holding his Birmingham to Glasgow bus ticket.

O'Neill, formerly of Kenilworth Road, Birmingham, refused to answer any questions in interview.

However, DNA tests showed Mr Ford's blood was on his joggers and phone analysis showed he was at the scene on the night of February 27.

O'Neill was sentenced at Stafford Crown Court on Thursday and was told he must serve a minimum of 10 years.

"We hope this sentence can bring Kenneth's family some peace and our thoughts remain with them," said Detective Inspector Michelle Thurgood of West Midlands Police.