Family's relief as bottle killer will stay behind bars

'I'm not a bitter person - I just had to let it go.'

Saturday, 3rd June 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Sunday, 4th June 2017, 9:32 pm
Jane and Philip Sherriff
Jane and Philip Sherriff

It has taken Jane Sherriff a long time to be able to say those words. Five years after her husband Philip was fatally wounded by a man with a broken bottle in a nightclub, she is hoping to find some closure.

Ashley Charles was jailed for life in 2012 for the horrific attack, but continued to add to the Sherriff’s family pain by appealing his conviction and sentence.

Now High Court judges have ruled that Charles, serving a life sentence for the murder, had not been the subject of a miscarriage of justice - bringing some relief for Philip’s family as they try to rebuild their lives.

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Ashley Charles was jailed for Philip Sherriff's killing

On May 9, when this latest legal challenge by her husband’s killer at was being heard at the Royal Courts of Justice, Jane went for a long walk.

She had planned to travel to London for the case, but instead spent the day walking to the shoulder of Cat Bells fell in Cumbria with her fiance and their toddler.

She said: “I was going to go and I took the day off and my partner took it off and we decided to travel to the Lake District instead. I was told there would be a lot of legal speak and that I would be on the periphery. I was seeking distraction.”

When the decision of the High Court’s Administrative Court was announced, Jane read it from cover to cover: “I read through the whole judgement and it’s quite a relief. It’s very thorough and there’s no stone left unturned.”

Ashley Charles was jailed for Philip Sherriff's killing

It was of particular importance to her that Lord Justice Gross, who watched CCTV footage of the killing, concluded: “The picture to my mind is aggression on the part of Charles, not the deceased.”

That Jane has now found new love with partner Graham and there has been a new addition - 17-month-old Sydney - to the family has been an unexpected joy.

Graham, a senior project manager, is also a widow and the couple were introduced by a friend of Jane’s.

The mother-of-three says she will never forget Philip. She said: “The fact I’ve got someone else now is a good thing. Phil is still my husband - he’s not forgotten - but you’ve got to do what you can to carry on...if not for me, for the kids. I wouldn’t want to be where I was five years ago. it’s not a nice place to be at all. But you have to find your own way and people do it in different ways.”

Recalling the immediate years after Philip’s death, she said: “I suppose I just carried on. I went running when I could. I did a bit of travel. I grabbed life and dragged my children along with me.

“I certainly went through a stage of being very bitter - about two years after I got stuck in this bitter hole and I thought this isn’t me. I’m not a bitter person. So I just had to let it go.”

She took anti-depressants for a while and was helped by “an amazing network of friends and family. Everyone wants to help out.”

She cites the fact that while she was at Philip’s hospital bed-side it was Megan’s eight birthday: “They threw a massive party with me not being here.”

Since his death, the village’s new Scorton 10K race has been renamed the Sherriff 10K in his honour.

Jane, a member of Garstang Running Club, is proud to note: “I’ve run all but one - when I was laid up with morning sickness. I really enjoyed it this year. All the proceeds go to the village. It’s raised a lot for the village.”

She says their children Megan, now 13, and Rowan, 10, also enjoy taking part in the annual fun run which is held on the same day.

Asked how the children have coped, she says: “They were so young, they understand things differently as they get older.”

Their love for their dad endures and Megan enjoys creating a special birthday cake for him each year. Jane says their children are: “little rays of light”.

Reflecting on the difficult years which have followed Philip’s death she sums up her hard-won philosophy and positive approach: “Be happy. Embrace life - because it is short.”