Blyth van driver Toby Kelly convicted of murder of Cramlington man Sheldon Flanighan

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A drunk van driver who killed an off-duty ambulance worker when he mowed him down as stepped in to stop a disturbance outside a pub has been convicted of murder.

Sheldon Flanighan had been socialising with his pal Wayne Common on Saturday, April 1 this year at the Bay Horse Inn in Cramlington, when they were both run over by Toby Kelly outside the bar.

Newcastle Crown Court heard Kelly struck Mr Flanighan by reversing over him, before going on to strike him again by driving forwards onto his body.

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Paramedics rushed to the scene but the 55-year-old, who worked for the North East Ambulance Service, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Toby Kelly, left, and victim Sheldon Flanighan.Toby Kelly, left, and victim Sheldon Flanighan.
Toby Kelly, left, and victim Sheldon Flanighan.

Mr Common suffered life-threatening injuries but survived.

Prosecutors say Mr Flanighan may have gone outside to prevent Kelly from drink-driving or to stop the trouble that started in the pub from continuing outside.

Kelly, 38, of Wansbeck Avenue, Blyth, denied murder and attempted murder but was convicted by a jury of both charges.

Part way through the trial he pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Mr Flanighan and causing grievous bodily harm to Mr Common but insisted he did not intend to hurt anyone.

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Toby Kelly.Toby Kelly.
Toby Kelly.

Kelly told jurors he drove his van towards people that night to scare them because he thought he was about to be attacked and had not intended to hurt anyone.

He now faces life behind bars and will be sentenced next Wednesday.

Kelly accepted during his evidence Mr Flanighan and others "probably did have good intentions" when he left the pub.

Juror heard Mr Flanighan and Mr Common had gone to the pub with another friend, called Kevin Patterson, that night.

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Cramlington man Sheldon Flanighan died after being knocked down outside The Bay Horse on April 1.Cramlington man Sheldon Flanighan died after being knocked down outside The Bay Horse on April 1.
Cramlington man Sheldon Flanighan died after being knocked down outside The Bay Horse on April 1.

The men were just metres away from Kelly, his partner Shannon Wooden, and their friend David Fairclough, who had been drinking inside the bar for several hours.

The court heard that the three had been told by staff they would no longer be served alcohol, which led to Ms Wooden smashing a number of glasses on the floor in frustration.

Footage then showed Kelly engaging in an altercation with Ms Wooden inside the bar with the pair grappling with each other on the floor.

Jurors heard that Kelly was later seen dragging her out of the pub by her legs towards the car park. This led to Mr Flanighan and Mr Common also leaving the pub, and entering the car park, the court was told.

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Sheldon Flanighan.Sheldon Flanighan.
Sheldon Flanighan.

Mr Flanighan suffered a catalogue of serious injuries including a severely fractured leg, over 30 broken ribs, and extensive fractures to the base of his skull.

Mr Common had head and elbow injuries, a laceration to his spleen and fractured ribs.

The court was told that one witness, whose girlfriend worked inside the Bay Horse Inn, heard the two victims approach the defendant to say he should not hit a woman.

Speaking after the trial Detective Chief Inspector Dave Johnson, of Northumbria Police, praised Sheldon’s family for their strength.

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He said: “This has been the most incredibly difficult year for Wayne and Sheldon’s loved ones as they continue to grieve, and I am pleased that the jury returned the right verdict today.

“Kelly’s actions were despicable and there was absolutely no need for Sheldon to lose his life, or for Wayne to sustain the serious injuries he did. This pointless violence has caused so much pain and I hope that today offers a sense of closure to the families, and to the wider community, who I know have been deeply affected by this.

“I have no idea what was going through Kelly’s mind when he made the decision to get in his van and use it as a weapon. Nothing good will ever come from a situation like that and as we’ve sadly seen in this case, there was nothing but tragic consequences for all involved.

“I hope the courts recognise the severity of Kelly’s offending because his violence, anger and disregard for life mean he is not suitable to live in our communities.

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“I would once again like to thank Sheldon’s family and Wayne and his family, for their cooperation and support during this difficult investigation. I also extend my thanks to the wider team at Northumbria Police who have helped ensure Kelly is brought to justice for his actions.”

Sheldon’s sister Julia, in a family statement, said: “Our family has been utterly shattered by the loss of Sheldon. Since the horror of his death, we have been stricken by acute grief, pain, and suffering beyond comprehension. We are heartbroken.

“The impact of Sheldon's death on our family is difficult to put into words. His sons have been deeply affected by the loss of their father. They miss him terribly and have been struggling to come to terms with his sudden absence.

“My sister and I are utterly broken. We grew up with Sheldon, our younger brother, and expected to grow old with him too. The thought of losing a sibling is unimaginable to so many people, but as Sheldon’s sisters, his absence is a painstaking reality that we wake up to every day.

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“Sheldon’s parents have been suffering severe ill health since his death. It is just as unimaginable for a parent to outlive their child. The grief and pain have been, and will forever continue to be, unbearable for them.

“The grief of losing Sheldon has further been compounded by the legal process that we have been made to endure. The trial has lasted five torturous weeks during which we have had to repeatedly relive the horror of Sheldon's death, over and over again.

“Hearing every painful detail of his last moments has been excruciating for us to comprehend and deal with as a family. However, the defendant has never shown any remorse or acknowledgment of guilt. He has only ever acted to preserve himself, and his partial guilty plea halfway through the trial only caused us further anguish.

“The atrocity that was committed by this defendant is beyond any comprehension. The jury has now given their verdict finding him guilty of murder and attempted murder.

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“In that regard, I would like to state that, even after a sentence in prison, he will eventually be released back into society. After serving his term, the defendant will return to his life. Sheldon will never return to his. Our family will never truly heal.

“I would like to thank Northumbria Police and the Crown Prosecution team for their diligence, thoroughness, and painstaking hard work in ensuring that Sheldon's killer did not evade justice.

“We trust that Sheldon has found eternal rest. He will be remembered in our hearts forever, and we hope to be reunited with him when our times come to pass. We also dare to pray that no other family will be forced to endure our experience.”