Axe attack man jailed

PUBLISHED: 16:10 07 April 2017

Andrew Barnes

Andrew Barnes

Archant

Andrew Barnes, from Topsham, has been jailed for hitting victim Luke Down with four heavy blows to his head with an axe, leaving him with brain injuries which needed emergency surgery to save his life.

Exeter Crown Court.Exeter Crown Court.

A former pilot has been jailed for 15 and a half years for a savage axe attack in which he tried to kill his unwanted lodger.

Andrew Barnes hit victim Luke Down with four heavy blows to his head with the axe and left him with brain injuries which needed emergency surgery to save his life.

He was jailed after a judge described the axe attack as an ‘impetuous moment of madness’.

Mr Down had been staying at Barnes’s flat in Altamira, Topsham, but the home was about to be repossessed and he was threatening to barricade himself in and claim squatter’s rights.

Barnes became so angry at having a cuckoo in his nest that he picked up the heavy, long handled axe and swung it at Mr Down as he lay asleep in his lounge.

Mr Downs only survived because Barnes did not remove the protective cover over the blade and the blows were softened by the mattress beneath the victim’s head.

The force of the blows cut through the plastic axe guard and sent blood all over the small flat, including the ceiling, where it splashed off the head of the axe as Barnes swung it backwards to take the next blow.

The court heard how Barnes had let 29-year-old Mr Down stay at his home when he had nowhere else to go but he never paid any rent beyond buying alcohol and food from local shops.

The relationship between the men deteriorated, with Mr Down taunting Barnes and bullying him into letting him stay rent-free.

The flat had been owned by Barnes’s mother but left jointly to him and other members of the family and although he had been allowed to stay for a short time, he was being evicted so it could be sold and the money divided up.

The final argument started on the morning of the day when the eviction was due to take place and was sparked by Mr Down’s threat not to leave.

Mr Down suffered massive head injuries but remained conscious after the attack and may have carried on drinking with Barnes, who eventually went downstairs to seek help.

Barnes initially claimed an intruder had carried out the attack but admitted he had been the axe man on the first day of his trial last month, at which the jury failed to reach a verdict.

He denied attempting to murder Mr Down but changed his plea at a special hearing at Exeter Crown Court.

Barnes, aged 61, of Altamira, Topsham, admitted attempted murder and was jailed for 15 years and six months by Judge Mr Justice Dingemans

The Judge told him: “You acted impetuously and on the spur of the moment. You picked up the axe with the guard still attached and struck Mr Down while he was sleeping and probably affected by alcohol on the bed.

“Extraordinarily, he survived and appears to have come to at some stage. While he has made a remarkable physical recovery, his is going to have very serious long term health consequences.

“This was an spontaneous attempt to kill because you were fed up with Mr Down saying he was going to claim squatter’s rights and also lying on your bed.

“You acted in a way which is only explicable in the context of the unusual relationship, in which you were both capable of winding each other up.

“There is significant mitigation in the fact that he undoubtedly provoked you, although that is not to say there was any justification for this moment of madness.”

Mr Lee Bremridge, defending, said Mr Downs’ behaviour had contributed to the build up of tension that led to the attack.

Barnes’s time in jail will be made more difficult by problems with his liver, kidneys and heart caused by his years of alcoholism.

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