Tragic death of attack victim

EMOTIONAL IMPACT: Antoinette Brown
EMOTIONAL IMPACT: Antoinette Brown
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Mum-of-three Antoinette Brown took her own life three weeks after being brutally beaten and scarred for life in a “nasty, brutal, sustained and unjustified” attack.

The grieving family of Antoinette Brown told the Evening Post how the 37 year old would not let her family see her injuries following the attack in a house in Plungington, Preston.

Judge Edward Byrne, sentencing one of her attackers to 32 months in prison at Preston Crown Court, said that while no legal link can be found between death and the attack, the emotional impact may have contributed.

Patrick Gray, 30, of Skipton Street, Morecambe, pleaded guilty to inflicting grievous bodily harm, but said he was trying to defend his co-defendant and girlfriend Natalie Finley, who was pregnant at the time.

However, he was also sentenced for assaulting Finley just a few weeks later.

Antoinette, a former care home worker who was known as Toni to her loved ones, was found dead on June 18.

Judge Byrne said: “The victim’s death was not attributable in a legal sense to the attack. There was no causal connection between the attack and the victim’s death.”

But he said he accepted the events may have contributed to the “mental fragility” of the victim.

The court heard how Antoinette, from Preston, had been involved in an argument with Finley’s mother in a city centre pub on May 24 last year.

After she left the pub she phoned Finley, 30, and was invited to her home to resolve matters.

In the early hours of May 25 she went to Finley’s house on Dallas Street, Plungington.

Gray locked the door behind her.

Antoinette was then kicked and punched to her head by Gray and Finley after the two women started arguing, and was repeatedly 
assaulted as she lay on the floor and tried to crawl to the door.

Today her devastated father Tony Brown, 68, who tearfully watched the proceedings from the public gallery, said: “ No sentence will ever be long enough.

“Antoinette was a lovely person, with three beautiful children. The judge did his best, we are grateful, but he is constrained by the justice system.”

The grandfather, from Longton, near Preston, added: “We think the attack contributed to her death.

“She wouldn’t let us see her for three weeks, she didn’t want us to see her injuries.

“The impact on our family has been very disruptive. Since her death all her three children are living apart and her youngest, her son, is only nine.

“At least Gray is away for a while but how long is it before he gets out and hurts another girl?”

Gray, who has 45 offences on his record including violence, pleaded guilty on the basis that he was trying to protect his pregnant girlfriend.

He was on bail awaiting his sentence the same day for an arson attack and burglary on his former girlfriend, in which he burned her clothes in her back garden.

Hours after the attack on Antoinette, he was given a nine month suspended prison sentence for those offences.

However he was not arrested for the attack until the month after Antoinette’s death, when co-defendant Finley reported he had assaulted her.

She told police she woke one night in July to find him stood over her, shouting. He dragged her by her hair around her home and accused her of being unfaithful.

He admitted the assault.

The court heard Antoinette suffered severe bruising and lacerations to her face and had to have surgery for a wound that reopened.

During the hearing Judge Byrne, referring to pictures of her injuries, said: “There’s no doubt that these photographs demonstrate this was a brutal and sustained attack and whilst the defendant pleads guilty on the basis that the incident started by him going to his girlfriend’s aid when the two ladies were fighting, I’m satisfied this conduct went far beyond anything that can be legitimately regarded as excessive self defence.”

Finley will be sentenced for her role in the attack at a later date and is due to appear before the court on March 7.