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Teen jailed after social media row erupted in gun and knife violence in Faversham

Bad blood between teenagers which erupted in gun and knife violence in a quiet market town has led to one being locked up for more than five years.

Wielding a machete, 17-year-old Troy Gosden chased Ellis Priest into a doorway in Faversham where he then hacked at him as many as 10 times before delivering the final blow which punctured a lung.

Troy Gosden has been jailed for five-and-a-half years for the shocking violence in Faversham
Troy Gosden has been jailed for five-and-a-half years for the shocking violence in Faversham

The 18-year-old victim, who had fired a starter pistol at his attackers, also suffered a deep wound that exposed and cut tendons in his forearm and the tip of his thumb was sliced off.

Gosden's accomplice, Kai Theodule, also 18, was unarmed but blocked Mr Priest's escape route with a wheelie bin and punched him several times, Canterbury Crown Court heard.

The frenzied attack occurred in the early evening of January 25 after Theodule's father had driven them to the area where the victim was known to live.

It was captured on what was described as "quite startling" CCTV and its build-up witnessed by an 11-year-old girl from her bedroom window.

She later described to police hearing two loud bangs before seeing several knife-wielding yobs "circling” and the "red flame" of a gun being fired.

Within seconds, Gosden and Theodule had set about their victim, with "deliberate intent and force".

Despite his injuries, however, Mr Priest managed to reach his home where, covered in blood, he collapsed on his kitchen table and was eventually airlifted to King's College Hospital in London.

Gosden, of Charles Drayson Court, Faversham, and Theodule, of Maple Gardens, Canterbury, handed themselves in to police within a few days. The machete was never recovered.

Gosden, now 18, later admitted wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and having a bladed article, while Theodule pleaded guilty to affray. Both claimed when arrested however that they had acted in self-defence, saying they feared for their lives as the gun was fired at them.

The court heard Mr Priest had known his two assailants for several years and been to school with Theodule.

Several police cars were spotted in Bensted Grove car park in Faversham at the time
Several police cars were spotted in Bensted Grove car park in Faversham at the time

But they drifted apart and then fell out over a girl. This led to "threats and aggravation" over social media and ultimately, as the judge said, the decision "to go hunting" for their victim.

Shortly before the attack itself, a friend of Mr Priest's had been threatened by a group of balaclava-clad males in a BMW who, having wound down a window, held a knife to his stomach and chillingly warned: "This is what Ellis is going to get."

Having been alerted to the threat, Mr Priest and his friend were at a One Stop shop in Lower Road, Faversham, when he spotted a BMW parked up around the corner.

But having told his friend to hurry up", they were forced to jump out of the way of the car as it drove towards them and mounted the pavement. Four occupants, including Gosden and Theodule, then decamped.

Telling the court it was "not a chance encounter", prosecutor Peter Forbes said: "A young girl aged 11 told police she heard a loud bang and then another, which she thought was a gun.

"She also referred to seeing five or six men circling a car and saw what she described as the 'red flame' of a gunshot. She described two people with long knives at their sides and one shouting: 'Hide the knives!’"

Mr Priest's friend was accosted by two balaclava-clad males dressed in black and armed with knives but managed to escape uninjured, the court heard.

However, Gosden and Theodule pursued Mr Priest as he ran down some steps and across a grass verge into a doorway on St Paul's Avenue.

The CCTV showed Gosden wielding the knife as he continued the chase and, at one point, appeared to "flinch and spin around" as footage taken from a different angle showed Mr Priest seemingly firing the Olympic 6 starter pistol, said the prosecutor.

Gosden and Theodule then caught up with their victim in the doorway and launched their attack, with Mr Priest still holding the gun in his left hand.

The sentencing took place at Canterbury Crown Court
The sentencing took place at Canterbury Crown Court

Describing the footage, which was without sound, Mr Forbes told the court: "Ellis Priest is cornered and Troy Gosden can be seen wielding a machete or large knife with hostile intent, and is seen slashing or hacking at Ellis Priest 10 times before lunging the knife into his chest once.

"Kai Theodule can be seen blocking Ellis Priest's exit route by throwing a wheelie bin and then throwing a punch."

The pair eventually fled and Mr Priest clambered over the bin to escape. The pistol was found by police nearby and the victim later admitted he had used it to fire blanks, said the prosecutor.

In a victim impact statement made just over a fortnight later, Mr Priest, now 19, told police he had not realised at the time just how seriously he had been injured. He spent over a week in hospital and had to undergo six months of hand therapy due to nerve damage to his arm.

"I could have died. I have never experienced this level of injury before and I hope never to again," he said. "When I go out I am much more wary and constantly looking around to make sure the two people don't turn back up and assault me again."

Neither Gosden nor Theodule have any previous convictions.

Mr Forbes told the court that although Theodule was unarmed and had not inflicted any injuries, he was "part of the joint violence".

Gosden was locked up for five-and-a-half years and Theodule was given 12 months' custody suspended for two years, with 15 rehabilitation activity requirement sessions, 100 hours of unpaid work and a three-month curfew between 7pm and 6am.

Passing sentence, Recorder Amy NIcholson said there was "a considerable degree of planning and premeditation" behind the attack, including the earlier threat to Mr Priest's friend.

She added that the fact they had been driven to the scene by Theodule's father was "a disturbing feature" and he "ought to have known better".

“He was fortunate not to be stabbed in the heart and his life was clearly in danger because of what you did..."

"He drove at your victim by mounting the kerb, causing him to jump out of the way. There was obvious hostile intent from the outset and the location was chosen as it was the area where your victim lived," said the judge.

"You took a highly dangerous weapon, Troy Gosden. You pursued him despite the fact he fired one blank at you. You had cornered him. You weren't trying to disable him. You were intent on causing serious injury.

"When you stabbed your victim you used full force… He was fortunate not to be stabbed in the heart and his life was clearly in danger because of what you did."

Recorder Nicholson added that despite reading letters from Gosden and his aunt, in which she described how he cared for his disabled mother, she did not accept he had shown "true" remorse, and instead "harboured entrenched criminal thoughts".

"You told the author of your pre-sentence report that your only regret was that you were in custody and you attributed blame to your victim," she told him.

"The fact is, you started this, you went there with obvious intent, you got out of the car with obvious violent intent, and you chased after him with the machete you had taken to the scene."

Theodule, said the judge, had shown he was "trying to better himself" with a good prospect of rehabilitation which enabled her to spare him immediate custody.

But she told the teen that he "could not have been in any doubt" that his friend was armed with and using the machete as he himself resorted to "gratuitous" violence.

Ben Irwin, defending Gosden, had told the court that although there was "a great deal of background" to the case, there was "no justification" for his client's actions that night and was something he now "bitterly regretted".

But he maintained his client had genuinely feared for his life.

Mr Irwin said: "This didn't all happen in a vacuum. The victim was in possession of a firearm and was firing it at Troy Gosden as he was chased.

"We know now it was a starter pistol firing blanks but it was obviously not clear then and, as seen, at times Ellis Priest was firing at them and Troy Gosden was evading what he thought were bullets… He tells me he honestly thought he was going to be killed."

The court also heard about Gosden's "difficult childhood" whereby he was bullied, excluded from school at 13, and had undiagnosed ADHD. He then "slowly fell in with a very bad bunch of boys, things began to unravel, and a problem between him and the victim festered", said Mr Irwin.

"What this represents is a juvenile's response to a threat when the juvenile was plainly still very young and incapable of finding a better way to resolve the conflict," concluded Mr Irwin.

Tom Stern, defending college student Theodule, said he had wanted to "discuss things with Ellis Priest with a view to resolution" but the resulting violence may have been "substantially influenced " by the pistol's production and firing.

"One can see how the situation may have grown from something which ultimately it wasn't designed to have been," he added.

The court was told Theodule had served 77 days on remand and then 199 days on bail with a tagged curfew following his arrest. An order banning him from Faversham was lifted on sentencing.

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