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Chatham man sentenced for killing child rapist who was found dead in Borstal

The killer of a child rapist beaten to death in an "uncontrollable rage" has been jailed for 13 years.

Family and friends of Simon Brown, who had admitted the manslaughter of paedophile William Rowe, packed the public gallery at Maidstone Crown Court for his sentencing hearing on Thursday (June 13).

Brown subjected the victim to a prolonged and vicious assault, leaving him with serious facial and chest injuries
Brown subjected the victim to a prolonged and vicious assault, leaving him with serious facial and chest injuries

Their presence was in stark contrast to the non-appearance of anyone on behalf of Mr Rowe, as well as the non-existence of the customary impact statements usually prepared by victims or their loved ones for such legal proceedings.

Mr Rowe, who was known as Bill, was 71 years old and less than a year out of prison when he was killed in what was described as a violent and persistent assault in the early hours of September 4 last year.

Brown, described as a "dedicated and devoted" dad of two, said he lost his temper when the pensioner "bragged and boasted" about his deviant past, having been confronted with a KentOnline article from 2012 reporting his two convictions for multiple offences of sexual abuse on two young children.

Using his fists and feet, he then inflicted multiple injuries with "sheer ferocity" to Mr Rowe's head, neck and torso, including as many as 27 fractures to 17 ribs, before leaving him to die on the floor of a mutual friend's home in Borstal, near Rochester.

The grim discovery of his lifeless body was made by police more than 27 hours later following a 999 call from Brown's distraught mum.

Brown, 28, subsequently went on trial in March accused of murder, with the jury taking just under 12 hours to find him not guilty at the end of the almost month-long hearing.

He had however admitted responsibility for his victim's death by pleading guilty to manslaughter during proceedings.

Giving evidence, he said the violence was only triggered when the pensioner, on being shown the report headlined 'Dartford rapist William Rowe locked up for brutal sex attacks on young girl two decades ago', smirked, laughed and dismissed his crimes as "a bit of fun".

The news story also referenced an earlier conviction in 1984 for indecent assault on another child.

Brown admitted he had punched and kicked his victim in an "uncontrollable blanket of rage", but he maintained he had never intended to kill or cause really serious harm to Mr Rowe.

On jailing him, however, Judge Julian Smith said not only did the attack carry a "high risk of death" but the reasons for it "flew in the face of common sense".

Child rapist William Rowe
Child rapist William Rowe

"The evidence that Bill Rowe, who denied his offending to all, had stood trial for it and who, since his release, had experienced hostility and rejection, became boastful of the most profound, predatory sexual offending to Simon Brown, is evidence I reject," the judge told the court.

"Whatever contempt and revulsion caused Simon Brown to attack Bill Rowe that night was not a brief burst of rage and violence measured in seconds but was deliberate, sustained and involved considerable force."

Judge Smith also remarked that the reason the violent attack started "mattered less" than the fact it was "clearly" initiated by Brown and that his victim did not fight back.

He also concluded that what is known as an extended sentence was required as Brown was considered to be a dangerous offender and of high risk of harm to the public.

This means he will have to serve at least two-thirds of the 13-year jail term before he can be considered for release, and will then have four years added to any licence period.

The judge also said that Brown's expressions of remorse and the relevance of his impulsivity from his ADHD were of limited value in mitigation, while aggravating factors included the failure to assist or seek medical help for his victim.

Brown, who has already served 280 days on remand, confirmed from the dock that he understood the sentence and thanked the judge.

However, his grandmother was visibly distraught in the public gallery as she branded the punishment "unfair".

Jurors had heard during the trial that a consultant neuropsychologist who examined the killer post-arrest concluded that his ADHD predisposed him to impulsive behaviour, poor emotional regulation, and "jumping into actions without thinking".

The court was also told that Brown, who has several previous convictions dating back to 2010 for offences of common assault, criminal damage and assaulting emergency workers, had also endured a "difficult and violent" childhood.

Referring to "powerful" references from the defendant's sisters, David Hislop KC, defending, said: "They provide a real picture of his upbringing and what he suffered and was exposed to.

The trial was heard at Maidstone Crown Court
The trial was heard at Maidstone Crown Court

"It provides a context to the mental and emotional issues he had in a very, very difficult and violent, it would seem, upbringing.

"While the ADHD is not something that substantially mitigates, it is a factor and becomes more of a factor in the context of those three very careful references.

"They are powerful in putting 'him' into some context."

It was the prosecution case at trial that the fact Mr Rowe had been a convicted paedophile did not "justify or excuse such awful violence", that the severity of the injuries inflicted "wholly undermined" Brown's account, and that the victim had done nothing to provoke the brutal attack.

Jurors also heard evidence from the pensioner's ex-wife and a long-term close friend who both said he was a private person who "did not boast at all" and had even maintained his innocence.

Simon Brown, from Chatham, stood trial for murder after the death of William Rowe. Picture: Facebook
Simon Brown, from Chatham, stood trial for murder after the death of William Rowe. Picture: Facebook

The contention Mr Rowe had not "bragged" in the build-up to his killing was maintained by the prosecution during the sentencing hearing, who argued that despite the jury's acquittal on the murder charge, the court was "not bound to accept that everything the defendant had said was true".

However, Mr Hislop argued that the evidence from prosecution witnesses had not only shown Mr Rowe to be "very selective" about "what he said and to whom about his proclivities" but also supported Brown's account of him boasting.

The jury was told that Mr Rowe, formerly from Dartford, had been convicted of three offences of child rape, three of indecent assault and one of gross indecency at the same court in November 2012.

Having been sentenced to a lengthy term of imprisonment, the qualified engineer was released from prison in November 2022 and he moved to the Gillingham area.

Mr Rowe often lived in his car or on a boat - a derelict police launch - he moored at a marina on the River Medway in Rochester, and where it was said he would walk around naked from the waist down.

Simon Brown, from Chatham, has admitted manslaughter. Picture: Facebook
Simon Brown, from Chatham, has admitted manslaughter. Picture: Facebook

It was there in the summer of last year that he was befriended by Rose Ripley, who was also a pal of Brown's, and it was at her home in Mercury Close that the pensioner was killed.

Brown claimed it was Ms Ripley, 34, who had shown him the online article about Mr Rowe's crimes as they were all chatting in her living room.

However, he maintained he only lashed out when Mr Rowe boasted that his sexual offending "wasn't the first time and probably wouldn't be the last".

"I just kept thinking he had raped an innocent child and I exploded," explained Brown.

He could not recall how many times he struck the pensioner or where the blows landed.

Simon Brown was sentenced to 13 years' imprisonment after he fatally assaulted 71-year-old William Rowe
Simon Brown was sentenced to 13 years' imprisonment after he fatally assaulted 71-year-old William Rowe

But when asked by Mr Hislop whether he had intended to cause really serious harm to the pensioner or to kill him, Brown replied: "God no. Definitely not. No."

He estimated the assault lasted "not even a minute" and that Ms Ripley did not try to stop him.

Brown, who until his arrest had worked repairing underground cables, said although he had wanted to call an ambulance for the injured Mr Rowe, she had told him she "didn't want police at her door".

Brown said he and Ms Ripley had then left the house "in panic" but he believed the pensioner, although unconscious, was still breathing.

The court heard however that neither summoned help for him - despite returning to Mercury Close at one stage and driving off in the pensioner's car - and it was not until the following morning that Brown finally confessed to his mum, Kay Brown, prompting her 999 call.

Simon Brown was charged with murder after William Rowe was found deadPicture: Facebook
Simon Brown was charged with murder after William Rowe was found deadPicture: Facebook

She described how her son had arrived at the home they shared in Snowdon Close, Chatham, and, crying, told her "I am so scared. I beat this man up. I think I killed him. He was a nonce. He brutally raped a two-year-old. I just beat him up. I went mad."

Bodyworn camera footage of his arrest showed him repeatedly breaking down in tears and at one stage vomiting.

Police broke into Ms Ripley's property to find Mr Rowe covered in a blanket, propped upright against a sofa and sitting on the bloodstained living room carpet with his head and upper body tightly wrapped in a towel.

He was partially-dressed in a T-shirt, underwear and one sock.

As well as the rib fractures and a "significant" brain injury, he had suffered fractures to his nose and eye area, multiple lacerations, bruising, and a tooth had also been knocked out.

A forensic van in Mercury Close, Borstal
A forensic van in Mercury Close, Borstal

A pathologist later concluded that the cause of death was blunt force trauma.

The court heard Ms Ripley was also arrested on suspicion of murder but later released without charge.

Although her evidence to the court was said at times to be "confusing and contradictory", she had told the jury she also heard Mr Rowe boasting that night about his paedophilia to Brown.

Brown's mum also told police of her son's "drunken rages" during which he would damage her property.

She added that his more recent "outbursts" were the result of his break-up with the mother of his young children and not having a home of his own.

Police in Mercury Close, Borstal
Police in Mercury Close, Borstal

Ms Brown also explained her son had been diagnosed with ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) when he was 10 years old, and had later stopped taking his medication due to his high blood pressure.

However, describing herself as being in "complete shock" at what her son had told her about Mr Rowe's death, she added: "Simon has a temper but I can't believe that this has happened."

The prosecution alleged that Brown had been the "aggressor" throughout the assault and, having been drinking, had used "overwhelming force" on a man "much older and much less robust".

Prosecutor Laurence Imrie also told the sentencing hearing that any such "goading" reaction from Mr Rowe was "inconsistent" with what was known about him as "someone who would not freely discuss his convictions and kept them secret".

"The suggestion Mr Rowe would have candidly and perhaps in a 'boasting' manner shown off about his convictions to a man who had only briefly beforehand shown him photographs of his own children is, the Crown would say, against common sense," added Mr Imrie.

It was also asserted that Google searches on Ms Ripley's phone about Mr Rowe's conviction had only been made after the violence had been meted out and when the pensioner was either "dying or dead" on the living room floor.

Brown also disposed of the clothes he had been wearing and his phone before he was arrested.

In his sentencing remarks, Judge Smith said Mr Rowe's "conviction and reputation" had followed him once he had been released from prison, and that although Brown denied meeting him before the fateful night or knowing about his past, there was evidence to the contrary from Ms Ripley, albeit she was not "completely clear" as to how much she had told him.

"It is not disputed that Simon Brown started the incident. What is an issue is the suggestion that Bill Rowe was boasting and exulting in his previous sexual offending," the judge told the court.

"I am satisfied that this aspect of Simon Brown's account and the contradictory support for it given by Rose Ripley is not in keeping with what is known of Bill Rowe's attitude to those convictions and flies in the face of common sense.

"It seems to me that when the KentOnline article was viewed is not of critical importance given that I do not find Simon Brown's account of being goaded by Bill Rowe boasting to be a credible one."

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