Man jailed for murder of Thomas Ward - Stevenage

17/10/2014

A man appeared at St Albans Crown Court today, Friday, 17 October 2014, and was jailed for life and to serve a minimum of 32 years for the murder of Thomas Ward in Stevenage in April last year.

Thomas Ward, aged 22, was shot at point blank range with a shotgun on the doorstep of his caravan in Dye's Lane at around 11.25pm on Tuesday, 23 April. Three masked men were involved in the shooting.

Police were called immediately and Thomas was taken to the Lister Hospital in Stevenage.  However, he sadly died less than an hour after being shot.

Today, his cousin, John Boy Ward, aged 33, from Clarkson Court, Hatfield, was sentenced to life and to serve a minimum of 32 years imprisonment, having been found guilty on 03 October by a jury following a trial at St Albans Crown Court.

Three others were found guilty of assisting an offender following the same trial as follows:

  • John Boy's wife, Joeleen Josie Ward, aged 22, from Hickman Road, Chadwell Green
  • John Boy's brother, Francis Ward, aged 42, from Stable Way, North Kensington
  • John Boy's sister, Winifred Ward, aged 47, from Cambridge Road, London.

They will be sentenced at St Albans Crown Court on Tuesday, 11 November 2014.

During their trial the court heard how Thomas was killed in an act of revenge following a long standing feud between the two branches of the Ward family, which began with the death of John Boy's brother Mickey following a road traffic collision in 1987. Thomas' father, James 'Young Fox' Ward was not involved in this incident.  However, Mickey's side of the family blamed him for the death. This lead to violence between the two sides and in 1993, James 'Young Fox' Ward shot dead another of John Boy's brothers, James 'Bimbo' Ward.

Ultimately, in April last year, John Boy sought revenge and Thomas was shot on the doorstep of his caravan.  His wife and five-day-old baby daughter were inside at the time, but were not injured.

Following the shooting, John Boy fled the country, assisted by his wife, brother and sister. He was arrested on 06 February 2014, near Copenhagen, Denmark. Joeleen also fled the country, but returned to the UK and was arrested in January 2014.

The judge today thanked officers and staff and the prosecution for their investigation and presentation of the case.

Adrian Foster, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "This case involved a bitter feud between two branches of the same family, which led to the shooting to death of 21-year-old Thomas Ward.

"Thomas was in his caravan in Dyes Lane, Stevenage with his wife and 5-day-old daughter at about 11.25pm on Tuesday, 23 April 2013, when the caravan was attacked by a group of masked men.  Thomas ran to the door and was shot at point blank range in the chest with a shotgun.  He ran past his killers into undergrowth to hide where he was found unconscious by his family and taken to hospital, where he died just under an hour after he was shot.

"This was a planned and targeted execution by John Ward, who was known to the victim.  The motive for the attack was revenge following the shooting to death of James 'Bimbo' Ward, John Ward's brother by Thomas Ward's father James Ward.  Thomas was killed when his first child was just five days old.  The timing was no coincidence as John Ward had threatened Thomas in 2011 to 'get him' when he was at his 'happiest time in life.'  John Ward is clearly an extremely ruthless, violent and dangerous man.

"After the incident, John Ward and his pregnant wife, Joeleen ward, went on the run around Europe.  Joeleen was arrested for assisting an offender in January and John was arrested for murder in February in Copenhagen, Denmark on a European Arrest Warrant and extradited to the UK to face the charge.  John's siblings, Francis Ward and Winifred Ward, provided substantial financial assistance to John to help him in his flight from jurisdiction and were arrested and charged with assisting an offender.

"John claimed not have played any part in the attack, but was convicted of murder despite his denial.  Joeleen, Francis and Winifred played a significant part in the aftermath of the murder and have been found guilty of assisting an offender despite their denials.

"This case represents a tragedy for Thomas' family, who are distraught by his untimely death.  His daughter has been denied the opportunity to know her father.  I would like to pay tribute to them for their wholehearted support of this investigation and the dignity they displayed while hearing the horrific details of how Thomas was ambushed and killed.

"We have worked closely with the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit since this investigation was launched and as a result of the hard work and diligence of the prosecution team, a just outcome has been achieved.

"We know that nothing can bring Thomas back, but we hope that the convictions and today's sentence brings his family and friends at least a small sense that justice has been done. Our thoughts are very much with them all at this time."

Detective Chief Inspector Sharn Basra from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit lead the investigation and said: "A young man lost his life in one of the most barbaric ways leaving his baby daughter without a father through no fault of his own.

"I would like to thank the family for their support of the investigation and their dignity in ensuring justice could prevail.

"John Boy Ward is clearly an extremely ruthless, violent and dangerous man.

"Whilst we cannot be clear who pulled the trigger, we know that John Boy instigated, planned and ensured Thomas was killed that night and I am pleased he was has now been given a substantial prison term for his actions. Whilst nothing can bring Thomas back to his family I hope this offers at least some comfort to them.

"I would also like to make it clear that investigations to identify and trace others who we believe were involved in the planning and facilitation of the killing are on-going. We will continue to make inquiries and speak with people of interest to ensure all those who played a part in Thomas' murder face justice. I would appeal to anyone who has any information which would assist these inquiries to please contact the Herts Police non-emergency number 101."

Police and Crime Commissioner, David Lloyd, said: "It is clear that this was a complicated and highly emotive case and I am impressed, as always, with the highly professional, thorough and compassionate way that our Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit investigated the case.  It is an outstanding result. You are unlikely to be the victim of crime in Hertfordshire, but where criminality occurs we will go the extra mile to bring the offender to justice."