Three sentenced for assisting murderer John Ward - Stevenage

11/11/2014

The wife, brother and sister of a man convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment and to serve a minimum of 32 years for murdering his cousin in Stevenage, have today, Tuesday, 11 November 2014, been sentenced at St Albans Crown Court.

Thomas Ward, aged 22, was shot at point blank range with a shot-gun on the doorstep of his caravan in Dye's Lane at around 11.25pm on Tuesday, 23 April 2013. 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.

His cousin, John Boy Ward, aged 33, whose last known address was Clarkson Court in Hatfield, was sentenced on 17 October to life and to serve a minimum of 32 years imprisonment having been found guilty of murder on 03 October by a jury following a trial at St Albans Crown Court.

John Boy's three family members were found guilty of assisting him following the same trial and have today been sentenced as follows:

  • John Boy's wife, Joeleen Josie Ward, aged 22, from Hickman Road, Chadwell Green, was given a 12 month sentence suspended for two years
  • John Boy's brother, Francis Ward, aged 36, from Stable Way, North Kensington, was jailed for 18 months
  • John Boy's sister, Winifred Ward, aged 47, from Cambridge Road, London, was jailed for 15 months.

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.

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 22-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 (EAW) 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 were 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 the investigation and the dignity they displayed during the trial while hearing the horrific details of how Thomas was ambushed and killed.

"We have worked closely with the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and 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, John Ward's life sentence and today's sentences bring 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: "This was a truly barbaric case and it is right that those involved in assisting John Boy have faced justice.

"However, whilst this part of the investigation has reached its conclusion, I want to be clear that our efforts to trace others involved in murdering Thomas are continuing. We cannot say who pulled the trigger that night, but I am confident that there are others involved and I would appeal to anyone who has any information which would assist these inquiries to please contact the Herts Police non-emergency number 101. If you dont feel you can speak to the police, please don't forget you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111."