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Rocky Hill murder trial verdict: John Barham and Allison Tomlin found guilty of murdering John Birney in Maidstone

Violence erupted in the dock at Maidstone Crown Court today as a mother and a former bodybuilder were convicted of murdering a pensioner.

Within seconds of the jury returning the verdicts, John Barham flew across the secure dock and tried to attack his co-accused Allison Tomlin.

His face contorted with rage and arms flailing, the 26-year-old with convictions for violence had to be restrained by up to seven dock officers.

John Birney (left) was murdered
John Birney (left) was murdered

It took some time before they were able to stop him punching out and drag him out of the door and into a holding cell, with four officers injured and one hospitalised with an eye injury.

The jury of seven men and four women, one woman having been discharged, were rushed out to a holding room as soon as Barham became violent.

Grey-haired Tomlin, who had previously been punched by Barham, sat impassively in her seat as he attempted to assault her again.

Judge Philip Statman said: “It seems by reason of the explosion I have witnessed it would be wholly wrong for him to be brought in at this time.”

His QC Richard Barraclough said he had since spoken to him in the cells and he had calmed down.

Barham and Tomlin will be sentenced next Friday, February 12.

Judge Statman said they would appear in the dock separately to hear their fate.

He added: "Even if in some form of restraint such as handcuffs it would not give the level of safety to Miss Tomlin and members of staff in the dock.

"They will be sentenced separately and kept apart."

The judge said he wanted to be kept informed about the officer who had to go to hospital.

"The dock staff have behaved in an extraordinary way today," he added.

This knife was found at the crime scene
This knife was found at the crime scene

"I wish all the officers to be commended - for it to be passed on to senior management and recorded on their personnel files.

"They behaved not just with extraordinary bravery, but in the way they contained him. They had regard for his safety as well as theirs.

Tomlin, 49, of no fixed address, and Barham, of Quarry Road, Maidstone, denied murdering 69-year-old John Birney.

"They tried to say horrible things about him but I always knew the justice system would work. Now he can rest in peace" - Jean Lawyer, Mr Birney's sister

Jurors had been out for over a week before returning the unanimous verdicts.

The victim’s decomposing body was found at his home in Rocky Hill Terrace, Rocky Hill, Maidstone, in June.

He was covered with a curtain on a sofa bed. One of his hands was tied with a belt which came from Tomlin’s coat. Two knives were on the floor next to him and another blade was wedged in the window.

A post mortem examination revealed he had 10 stab wounds, including one to the back of his head and others close to his neck. One of his eyes was missing.

Both Tomlin and Barham claimed in evidence that they did not know each other and only met after their arrest.

During the trial, Barham claimed he was “talking absolute rubbish” when he bragged to others he had killed a man.

The labourer, who has a string of convictions for violence, denied he stabbed Mr Birney to death because he found out he boasted he had sex with his girlfriend.

John Barham has been found guilty of murder. Picture: Kent Police
John Barham has been found guilty of murder. Picture: Kent Police

Tomlin admitted she had stayed at John Birney’s home but said she was not there when he was killed.

The mother-of-two claimed she did not know the victim had died when she was arrested for murder.

But the prosecution said Tomlin stayed in the flat after Mr Birney’s death.

Judge Statman said after Barham’s outburst that the security of dock officers was upmost in his mind.

Allison Tomlin murdered John Birney. Picture: Kent Police
Allison Tomlin murdered John Birney. Picture: Kent Police

“I would need some persuasion in the light of what I have seen to allow him back in the dock,” he said.

The judge told jurors: “I am acutely aware you have just witnessed something which is completely upsetting.”

He added: “Where there is a conviction for murder there is only one sentence that flows from it.”

The sentence will be life and the judge will decide what the minimum term should be.

Rocky Hill Terrace, where the alleged murder took place
Rocky Hill Terrace, where the alleged murder took place

Mr Birney's twin sister Jean Lawyer said she was pleased with the verdict.

She said: "I'm elated. It is justice for my brother.

"He was a good man but took the wrong path. They tried to say horrible things about him but I always knew the justice system would work.

"Now he can rest in peace."

Rocky Hill Terrace, Rocky Hill, Maidstone
Rocky Hill Terrace, Rocky Hill, Maidstone

Prosecutor Simon Taylor said in his closing speech that the evidence given by Tomlin and Barham had removed any doubts about their guilt.

“They have added to the case against them by their obvious lies and a startling inability to confront and deal with core aspects of the case against them,” he said.

Tomlin had been unable to account with detail and consistency for her movements between May 30 and the date of her arrest.

“She did not have a sensible answer to the evidence that firmly establishes she was living in Mr Birney’s flat with his dead body for some time,” he said.

The case was heard at Maidstone Crown Court
The case was heard at Maidstone Crown Court

Mr Taylor said Barham had confessed to the killing to “diverse people in diverse circumstances” and had Mr Birney’s blood on his jeans.

Barham, he said, had been jealous of his girlfriend Alina Korosteliova’s relationship with the victim. He had been present at the flat when Miss Korosteliova assaulted Mr Birney.

Mr Taylor said it was conceded there was no evidence of direct contact between Barham and Tomlin.

But he suggested the jury could conclude Tomlin would have been involved with Barham in some way in the Spring of last year and both were involved in the murder.

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