Blyth man who murdered Cramlington ambulance worker Sheldon Flanighan gets life sentence

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The man who murdered ambulance worker Sheldon Flanighan in a Cramlington pub car park will spend at least 28 years in prison after being sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court today.

Toby Kelly, of Wansbeck Avenue in Blyth, was convicted of murder and attempted murder by a jury last week after running over Sheldon, a 55-year-old father of two, and his friend Wayne Common, who survived but sustained long term injuries.

A judge ordered today that Kelly, 38, serves a life sentence in prison with a minimum term of 28 years for Sheldon’s murder and 13 years and 149 days for the attempted murder of Wayne.

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The sentences will be served alongside each other, and he will also be banned from driving for three years following his release from prison.

Sheldon Flanighan (left) was murdered by Toby Kelly, who ran over him with a van outside a Cramlington pub. (Photo by Northumbria Police)Sheldon Flanighan (left) was murdered by Toby Kelly, who ran over him with a van outside a Cramlington pub. (Photo by Northumbria Police)
Sheldon Flanighan (left) was murdered by Toby Kelly, who ran over him with a van outside a Cramlington pub. (Photo by Northumbria Police)

Prior to the incident, which occurred at The Bay Horse pub on April 1, Sheldon, who had worked for North East Ambulance Service for 29 years, and Wayne witnessed an altercation between Kelly and his associate Shannon Wooden, and offered their assistance to Wooden.

Kelly, Wooden, and another associate of theirs David Fairclough were then asked to leave the bar. They got into Kelly’s van and, when Sheldon and Wayne left the pub soon after, Kelly ran them over and drove away.

Wooden and Fairclough were both arrested and charged alongside Kelly, but the cases against them were later dropped.

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In her victim impact statement read in court today, Sheldon’s sister Julia described her brother as a “dedicated dad” and “an amazing character” who “filled our lives with love and care.”

She said: “The overwhelming heartbreak is real, an ache, a piercing pain that cannot be cured. Perhaps it may ease over time, but it continues to be acute and devastating to this day.

“Myself, I am consumed with an overwhelming emptiness and sadness at the loss of Sheldon’s life. I too have deep anger over the atrocity of his terrible death, which is accompanied by intense anxiety that adequate retribution will be delivered.

“I am still overcome by the never-ending tortuous questions as to why this has happened, what the future holds, and what I can do to mend my family.

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“I feel guilty that I am still here when Sheldon has gone, but I am determined that his memory will live on.

“Sheldon has lost his life and his dreams of seeing his sons grow, having their families, and enjoying future grandchildren.”

She added: “Sheldon’s funeral brought his hometown of Amble to a standstill as thousands of mourners attended and watched as his coffin received a guard of honour from the ambulance service.

“He was a beloved character. His caring and fun-loving nature endeared him to friends, colleagues and patients.

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“It is difficult to comprehend how we go forward without Sheldon. It is a tragedy that the world will be without him. We will go forward but with heavy hearts.

“A piece of our family has been taken from us. Nothing short of his return will ever compensate for the loss we have to feel every day.”

In his victim impact statement Wayne described how he now avoids big groups of strangers, but also dislikes being alone and rarely leaves the house by himself.

He said: “The sounds of sirens and car horns are like a knife going through me. I hate them. They cause me to feel really jumpy and anxious. Being in built up areas and dealing with heavy traffic also cause me to feel extremely stressed.

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“I have been told I am likely to be suffering from PTSD and have also been diagnosed with depression.

“Prior to this incident I always used to be the life and soul of the party and regularly contacted by friends for a game of golf, a pint, or for a meal. However I have now distanced myself from all of that.

“I feel like I am just living my life from day to day. I cannot plan anything as I do not know how I will feel from one day to the next.”

Wayne also described no longer recognising himself and experiencing “survivor’s guilt” that meant he no longer felt able to enjoy himself.

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He added: “I would speak to or see Sheldon every day. We played golf together, went on holiday together, spent Christmases together, lived together for periods of time.

“He is a big miss in my life. I still do not think that I have come to terms with the fact that he is no longer here. I know that I have not started grieving yet.

“Sheldon was a decent man who lived a decent life. He was and is loved and my thoughts are with his family and other friends.”

Police footage of Kelly’s arrest, released to the public today, shows him making jokes, mocking the officer arresting him, and claiming he was not the driver of the van.

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Detective Chief Inspector Dave Johnson of Northumbria Police described Kelly’s behaviour as “despicable.”

He said: “This has been an incredibly difficult time for Wayne and Sheldon’s loved ones, and I am pleased that Kelly has been jailed for life, and these difficult proceedings are at an end.

“I know that no sentence will ever take away the pain Kelly caused that night, or bring Sheldon back, but I do hope today can serve as a form of closure and allow all those grieving to begin moving forwards with their lives.

“I am pleased that Kelly has a long prison term ahead of him. I hope he uses the opportunity to seriously think about all the unnecessary pain and suffering he has caused due to his inexcusable anger. Our communities are no place for people like this.”