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Tony Goodwin jailed for life for hammer murder of Harry Messenger in Faversham

A thug who killed his elderly neighbour and friend in a frenzied hammer attack has been jailed for a minimum of 13 years.

Passing a life sentence, a judge told Tony Goodwin he had attacked Harry Messenger in his own home “with great brutality” while fuelled by alcohol.

Judge Jeremy Carey added: “I can safely conclude, having heard your evidence and about the character of Harry Messenger, that you lost your temper about something relatively trivial.”

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Tony Goodwin. Picture: Kent Police
Tony Goodwin. Picture: Kent Police

Goodwin inflicted 18 wounds to Harry Messenger’s head, face and neck, as well as 13 puncture wounds to his chest with the claw hammer.

The 63-year-old former painter and decorator claimed he was acting in self-defence and said it was “impossible” he caused so many injuries.

But a jury convicted him of murder yesterday after deliberating for more than six-and-a-half hours.

Goodwin insisted, despite the overwhelming medical evidence: “Eighteen times - no. I couldn’t believe it for a hundred million years. Three blows I remember - that’s it. Nothing else.”

Harry Messenger was murdered in his home in Crispin Close in Faversham
Harry Messenger was murdered in his home in Crispin Close in Faversham

Shortly after the attack at 75-year-old Mr Messenger’s bungalow in Faversham, he sent a text to his brother, admitting: “No, I just murdered someone...”

It was not until more than 12 hours later that he phoned the emergency services saying he had “a bit of a dispute” with his neighbour in Crispin Close.

Maidstone Crown Court heard the two men were good friends and visited each other regularly in the cul-de-sac.

At just after 3.30am on May 19 this year another neighbour heard three bangs that sounded as though they were coming from Mr Messenger’s bungalow.

LISTEN: Goodwin's 999 call after murdering Harry Messenger

It was at 4.11am that Goodwin sent a text attempting to get in touch with his brother.

The trained first-aider said in evidence he checked Mr Messenger’s pulse before leaving and could not find one.

Asked why he left it so long to call the emergency services, he replied: “I didn’t think he was dead.”

He claimed his friend had charged at him like a bull and acted like a “mad dog”.

The hammer seized from the scene of the murder
The hammer seized from the scene of the murder

The violence started, he said, after they talked about Mr Messenger’s son being in a pub fight.

“It went on from there,” he continued. “I said: ‘Did you not go and see how the other guy was?’ I haven’t seen him get like that before - agitated, very jumpy. It was like I said the wrong thing.

“He started to get up. He was foul mouthing, which is not like him. I remember him coming past me. I thought he was going to the toilet.”

Goodwin, who denied murder and an alternative charge of manslaughter, claimed Mr Messenger then punched him and struck him on the side of the head with the hammer. There was a struggle, he said, before he grabbed the hammer and hit back.

The scene of the murder in Crispin Close, Faversham
The scene of the murder in Crispin Close, Faversham

The judge said he accepted the evidence of another neighbour, Shannon Gibson, that she had seen Goodwin behaving aggressively to his friend two weeks before the murder.

“Both of you drank heavily on occasions and when in drink you and he on occasions behaved intemperately towards each other,” he continued.

On the night of the attack Goodwin went to Mr Messenger’s home at about 9pm, having spent three hours in the nearby Brents Tavern.

Mr Messenger had also been drinking. By the time of his death he had downed the equivalent of two bottles of red wine and vodka chasers, and would have been nearly three times the legal driving limit.

The bungalow in Crispin Close
The bungalow in Crispin Close

He had also overdosed on the strong painkiller tramadol.

Judge Carey said he concluded it was “at least possible” it was the victim who first got the hammer, normally kept in a kitchen drawer.

“Your relatively minor facial bruising is evidence of something amounting to a scuffle between you, which may have occurred when he got the hammer, or when he produced it and threatened you with it,” he told Goodwin.

“I am satisfied you could have left his home at any point, even when he had the hammer in his hand, and you stayed because you were angry with him."

Judge Jeremy Carey
Judge Jeremy Carey

Goodwin showed no reaction as he was led to the cells.

Speaking after the verdict, investigating officer Detective Inspector Ivan Beasley, said: "This was a sustained and brutal attack.

"The multiple wounds found on the victim including the fatal wound to his head, inflicted by such a weapon as a hammer, proved Goodwin intended to kill Harry Messenger.

"The severity of this attack, the text message he sent from his phone soon after and then the time he took to report this matter to the police voided any claim he was acting in self-defence.

"I hope this verdict is of some comfort to the victim’s family and friends."

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