Family of murdered ambulance worker Sheldon Flanighan caused 'unbearable' grief by killer Toby Kelly
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Father of two Sheldon Flanighan, 55, died outside The Bay Horse on April 1 this year after he was run over by Toby Kelly, who a jury found guilty of his murder today, Thursday, November 9.
38-year-old Kelly, of Wansbeck Avenue in Blyth, was also found guilty of the attempted murder of Wayne Common, a friend of Sheldon who sustained long term injuries after Kelly also struck him with his van.
The trial at Newcastle Crown Court took nearly five weeks.
In a statement after the verdict, Sheldon’s sister Julia described the family as ”utterly shattered” by his loss.
She said: “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.
“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.”
Julia went on to say that the lengthy trial had “compounded” the family’s grief.
She continued: “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 acknowledgement 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.”
Julia thanked Northumbria Police and the Crown Prosecution Service for “ensuring that Sheldon's killer did not evade justice.”
She added: “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.
“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.”
On the day of the incident, Sheldon and Wayne noticed an altercation in the pub between Kelly and his associate Shannon Wooden, and both offered their assistance to her.
Kelly, Wooden, and another man, David Fairclough, were ejected from the pub and all got into Kelly’s van.
Sheldon and Wayne then left the bar, at which point Kelly drove his van into them, causing their catastrophic injuries, and drove away from the scene.
Wooden and Fairclough were also arrested and charged, but the case against them both was later dropped.
Kelly has been remanded in custody and is due to be sentenced on Wednesday, November 15.
Lynsey Colling, head of the Crown Court unit at CPS North East, said: “This was a tragic case involving the death and serious injury of two men who had been enjoying a quiet night at their local pub.
“After the commotion in the bar area, a number of patrons followed the group out into the car park, where the tragic events unfolded.
“Kelly had previously claimed that he only wanted to scare the two men, but the Crown Prosecution Service has worked closely with police to meticulously dismantle that defence.
“It is clear from the accounts of witnesses at the scene that Kelly was acting aggressively, with the clear intent of seriously injuring or killing both men.
“Our thoughts remain with Mr Common and the family of Mr Flanighan, for whom this remains a very difficult time. We hope that his conviction today brings some measure of comfort to them.”
Detective Chief Inspector Dave Johnson, Northumbria Police’s senior investigating officer, 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 have sadly seen in this case, there were 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.
“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.”