A LEADING detective has slammed the behaviour of the killers of Preston teenager Jon-Jo Highton during their 12-week trial in the city.
Det Supt Eddie Thistlethwaite spoke out after reporting restrictions imposed on parts of the case were finally lifted this week.
Several of Jon-Jo’s killers were excluded from proceedings and others voluntarily remained in their cells after shocking displays of contempt, violence and abuse in the secure dock at Preston Crown Court, when they were sentenced last month.
On the day of sentence, Arran Graham, 23, who was jailed for life with a minimum term of 29 years, set upon Liam Tunstall, who had distanced himself from the street attack on Jon-Jo last August but was convicted of assisting an offender.
Despite all eight defendants being handcuffed to security guards, the brawl broke out with Graham launching himself at Tunstall as his co-defendants shouted: “Get him, Arran!”
As four security guards restrained him on the ground, Graham shouted: “I’ve got nothing to lose.
“I’m going down for life!”
The distress was visible in Jon-Jo’s mum Tracey, who for three months had remained quietly dignified as her son’s last moments were examined in detail.
During the first two weeks of the trial the entire court building had to be evacuated on five separate occasions when smoke alarms were set off by defendants smuggling cigarettes in and smoking in the holding cells.
During the opening of the trial, in which the jury was given a harrowing outline of sword and knife attack, killers Graham, Owen Whitesmith, Stephen Walton and Craig Walton, chatted, smirked and laughed among themselves.
Graham was seen sending messages to his mother, Tracey Gribbon, who was sitting in the public gallery but was later also banned from court due to her own behaviour towards Jon-Jo’s family.
Det Supt Thistlethwaite, who led the investigation, said: “The behaviour of some of the defendants throughout the investigation has been appalling. They have lied for their own self-interest, showed little or no remorse and some even laughed, joked and became violent in the dock throughout a prolonged and difficult trial, which had to be endured by the Highton family.
“The family of Jon-Jo Highton have conducted themselves with great dignity throughout their ordeal, especially the three month trial through which they have had to relive the ordeal of the tragic events, made worse by the behaviour of some of the defendants.
“We will continue to support them and they are committed to the future care of Jon-Jo’s son Taylor.”
On Thursday, Minhaj Musa, 21, who drove one of the killers to the scene of the attack in St Stephen’s Road, Deepdale, and Mohammed Sabbah Dal, 20, who chased after Jon-Jo, 18, and assaulted him in the moments before the fatal attack, each admitted conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm with intent. They were jailed for seven years.
Two remaining defendants have yet to be sentenced for their role in the case.
Natasha Tunstall, 28 and William Bore, 46, of Murray Street, Preston, were set to face charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice in a separate trial. However, both have pleaded guilty and will be sentenced on July 31.
Their role in the case can now also be reported. Joshua Bore had been warned not to get involved in the planned attack on Jon-Jo Highton. On the afternoon of August 23 2014, his older brother Liam Tunstall had visited him at Craig Walton’s flat warning him Owen Whitesmith was planning a revenge attack and was looking for a driver.
Tunstall – a local drug dealer – had switched off his phone and warned his brother to stay at home but that evening Bore and Walton joined Whitesmith, Graham and Stephen Walton in the Vauxhall Vectra heading to the murder scene.
On learning Bore had been involved in a serious incident, Tunstall set about covering his tracks. He recruited his sister, Natasha Tunstall, her partner John Wilding, and dad William Bore to provide false statements to the police claiming Joshua had been at Natasha and Wilding’s home in Darwen at the time of the attack.
Their cousin Stuart Eastham was enlisted to drive Bore from Preston to the house in Everton Street.
Liam Tunstall then arranged for a local drug addict, who has never been identified, to burn out the Vauxhall Vectra which was later discovered in Sunnyhurst Park carpark. Evidence including part of the broken sword and a Sprite bottle with Bore’s DNA on the neck were found in the vehicle.