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Man jailed for life for murdering football fan

|News, Violent crime

A man has been jailed for life with a 16-year minimum term after murdering a stranger who admired his car.

At 5.30pm on 25 June 2022 Paul Atherton, 38, attacked 22-year-old Ryan Harvey and his friend on Central Drive in Blackpool. 

Mr Harvey and his friends had been on a day trip with fellow Walsall Football Club supporters to visit Blackpool. As the group were returning to meet their coach to travel back to Walsall, Atherton drove past them in his black Audi A6. 

After Mr Harvey commented on liking the car, Atherton stopped his car and, without provocation or warning, ran at and kicked Mr Harvey to the back, knocking him to the floor.

A friend of Atherton, Thomas Heaney, 33, who happened to be passing, joined in with the violence and punched Mr Harvey knocking him to the floor a second time.

When the group remonstrated with Atherton, he assaulted a female friend of Mr Harvey, by kicking her in the stomach. During the melee, Atherton returned to his car for a metal bar which he swung at the group, before returning to his car and starting to leave.

Mr Harvey kicked out at the rear of Atherton’s car as he left. Atherton pulled up and ran back to Mr Harvey to deliver a final blow which knocked Mr Harvey unconscious. 

Mr Harvey died as a result of the blunt trauma to his head three days later on 28 June 2022. 

Heaney pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to assault occasioning actual bodily harm to Mr Harvey and was sentenced in June this year to 10 months' imprisonment.

In police interviews, Atherton accepted he had assaulted Mr Harvey but claimed to have acted in self-defence.

At the start of the trial Atherton pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but was found guilty of murder following a trial. He was also found guilty of common assault against a woman and possession of an offensive weapon.

Joanne Close, Senior Crown Prosecutor for CPS North West, said: “This is a truly shocking case involving unprovoked violence during the day in a busy town centre, which resulted in the death of an innocent man who was simply admiring a passing car and his three friends being injured.

“Paul Atherton claimed he had acted in self-defence, but after careful consideration of the evidence we presented to the jury, including CCTV and eyewitness evidence, they found him guilty of murdering Ryan Harvey and assaulting his friend.

“The CPS is committed to securing justice for those who partake in unlawful violence.

“My sympathy and thoughts are with all those who have been affected Mr Harvey’s tragic and untimely death.”

Notes to editors

  • Paul Atherton's DOB is 22/10/1985
  • Thomas Heaney's DOB is 21/05/1990

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