Shap man jailed for seven years for hammer attack on friend

A MAN from Shap who used a hammer to attack a friend he thought had insulted the memory of his dead mother has been jailed for seven years.

John Lowis, 45, “ambushed” 52-year-old Russell Mitchell after falling out with him in the village’s Crown pub, Carlisle Crown Court heard.

He hit him up to ten times with the hammer and poked him in the eye with the handle when its head fell off.

He stopped only when another man pushed him away.

Afterwards, prosecutor Timothy Brennand told the court, he admitted that he thought he had killed him.

Lowis, of Mill Crest, Main Street, Shap, was originally charged with attempting to murder Mr Mitchell, who was left permanently scarred and traumatised by the facial injuries he suffered.

But that charge was dropped when he pleaded guilty instead to the less serious offence of causing him grievous bodily harm with intent to do so.

Mr Brennand told the court the incident happened just before midnight on Sunday, August 12 after Lowis had got through about ten bottles of lager and a pint of draught during several hours spent “drinking steadily” in the pub.

Mr Mitchell insulted Lowis and called him “miserable” for complaining about the traffic generated through the village by the nearby Kendal Calling music festival.

Lowis said he did not want an argument, and explained that his mother had died just a fortnight before, to which Mr Mitchell – who was “merry but not drunk” after a trip to a football match in Birmingham – replied “I don’t give a f--- about your mother”, Mr Brennand said.

The landlord Daniel Stringer intervened and reprimanded Mr Mitchell, and Lowis stormed out of the pub.

Exactly what happened next was unclear, Mr Brennand said, but it seemed Lowis waited around outside after somehow getting possession of a hammer.

When Mr Mitchell walked past later with his friend William “Sean” Jones, Lowis appeared from behind a car in Jackson Lane in an “ambush”, Mr Brennand said.

He knocked Mr Mitchell to the ground before setting about him with the hammer – an attack that stopped only when Mr Jones pushed him away, he said.

When Mr Jones’s daughter Tamara arrived on the scene and asked Lowis where her father was, he replied: “Round there with Russ – I think I’ve killed him.”

Then, Mr Brennand said, Lowis wandered back to the pub, apologised to Mr Stringer for his earlier behaviour and finished his drink.

When he was arrested at his home soon afterwards police found his bloodstained clothing soaking in the bath.

In mitigation defence advocate Chris Toms said the attack had been sparked by Mr Mitchell swearing at Lowis, and being disrespectful of his late mother.

Mr Toms said: “The death of his mother was a terrific psychological blow. He was feeling terribly alone and dejected. In the circumstances it was the last thing Mr Mitchell should have said.”

Mr Toms said Lowis was “a solid chap” who had performed useful work around Shap “for years and years”, including cleaning the village public toilets.

He said he was now full of remorse because he had regarded Mr Mitchell as a friend.

After passing sentence, the judge, the Hon Mr Justice Singh, imposed a restraining order, banning Lowis from having any contact with Mr Mitchell for the next five years.

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