Published: 18:00, 14 September 2018
| Updated: 18:32, 14 September 2018
A dog owner who left his next-door neighbour with a fractured eye socket in a revenge attack for killing his beloved pet with a samurai sword is facing a lengthy prison sentence.
Matthew Oram was convicted of inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent to cause grievous bodily harm to Adam Ashurst by pushing him to the ground and repeatedly punching and kicking him.
The attack on July 15 last year occurred exactly four months to the day that 10-year-old English bull terrier Dave was effectively 'cut in two' by Mr Ashurst, a court heard.
But a judge told 46-year-old Oram, who suffers from depression and sobbed when he gave evidence about his dog, he would be considering 'the degree of provocation' before passing sentence.
The dog, said to have been 'treated like a baby' by the Oram family, was killed by Mr Ashurst on March 15 last year.
He struck it with one blow from the ornamental weapon after it escaped from its home in Gillingham and into his neighbouring terraced house.
Mr Ashurst told a court that having been alerted by screams and yelps, he grabbed the steel-bladed katana and struck Dave after finding him in the living room attacking his toy poodle.
He was arrested but when police decided not to charge him in relation to Dave's death, it was said the Oram family became "very upset and very resentful".
Oram and his daughter Jade, then 19, were alleged to have first embarked on a campaign of harassment against their neighbours before launching their brutal attack in the street.
He later admitted to police that he was angry and frustrated by their decision not to prosecute his neighbour and so, having been told by his wife she had seen Mr Ashurst leaving his house, he went after him to "give him a slap".
But although he agreed he lost control and fractured Mr Ashurst's eye socket, he denied that he intended to cause such serious harm.
The domestic and industrial painter and decorator also maintained he had not kicked and stamped on his head.
"Clearly there was the provocation in this case and the question of premeditation in that it was an instant reaction to seeing Mr Ashurst in the street that day..." - Judge Philip St.John-Stevens
However, the jury took less than three hours today to convict the dad of two of inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, and harassment causing alarm or distress.
He was cleared of the more serious harassment charge of putting a person in fear of violence.
Jade Oram, now 20, denied any involvement in either the violence or harassment and was cleared of inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent, as well as the alternative, less serious offence of inflicting grievous bodily harm, and harassment.
This included stones being thrown at Mr Ashurst's bedroom window, verbal and physical threats, spraying water from a hosepipe into their property, smashing a front window with a brick and cutting a telecommunications cable.
The court heard Mr Ashurst, who lived with his mother and 85-year-old grandmother at the house in Castlemaine Avenue became so scared he installed cameras to film what was going on.
Oram admitted during his trial that he was "disappointed" with himself for throwing stones, climbing onto a roof extension to bang on the bedroom window, blacking out another window with paint and spraying the hose over the garden fence,
But despite being told he would be jailed for his behaviour, Judge Philip St.John-Stevens said he would be considering the issues of provocation, premeditation and remorse in deciding the length of his imprisonment.
Adjourning for probation and medical reports, he said: "Sadly, these courts see cases of a far greater degree of sustained violence and indeed, sadly, a far greater degree of injury.
"Clearly there was the provocation in this case and the question of premeditation in that it was an instant reaction to seeing Mr Ashurst in the street that day. But these are matters I need to reflect on.
"I may also need to reflect on the position of remorse. I have seen the defendant give evidence and he is clearly remorseful of his actions and the injury.
"It was not a question of self-defence but he is remorseful and that cannot be ignored. That can reduce the sentence as well.
"It is a particular set of circumstances and the court will need to reflect carefully upon it. But the sentence is inevitably custody."
"The Crown say the Oram family, whose pet dog had been killed by Adam Ashurst, were clearly very unhappy with the police decision and very resentful towards Adam Ashurst and his family for what he had done in killing their dog,.." - prosecutor Tony Prosser
Oram was released on bail until he is sentenced in the week beginning November 5.
Judge St.John-Stevens also asked for an up-to-date victim impact statement from Mr Ashurst, who needed surgery to repair the bone and muscle damage to his eye.
He was also left with a zigzag-patterned imprint on his shoulder said to be 'a clear comparison' to the trainers worn by Oram at the time.
It was alleged Miss Oram played a 'participating and supporting' role in the attack.
At the start of their trial on Tuesday, prosecutor Tony Prosser said the harassment began within hours of Mr Ashurst being released by police without charge.
"The Crown say the Oram family, whose pet dog had been killed by Adam Ashurst, were clearly very unhappy with the police decision and very resentful towards Adam Ashurst and his family for what he had done in killing their dog," said Mr Prosser.
"They describe a series of unpleasant incidents that followed over the next few months... The Crown say this all amounts to a campaign of harassment.... as a result of the fact he had killed their dog in March."
Mr Ashurst was then set upon as he went for a walk just after 11.30am on July 15. The court heard that he had rarely ventured out after the dog incident, and only usually by taxi.
The court heard father and daughter then pulled up in nearby Oak Avenue and got out the car.
Mr Ashurst told the court he saw Miss Oram standing one to two metres behind her father, who looked like 'a man on a mission'.
"He was just coming straight towards me. As soon as he got to me he pushed me with two hands on my chest to the floor," he said.
"I just felt kicks to the face, head, stomps on my back. I was just screaming for assistance..." - victim Adam Ashurst
"I landed on my butt. He started coming towards me, followed by Jade, and I just went into the foetal position and covered myself as best I could. I was just trying to protect my face. I couldn't see, apart from shoes coming towards me.
"I just felt kicks to the face, head, stomps on my back. I was just screaming for assistance. It felt like it was not going to stop."
Mr Prosser said the footwear pattern left on the back of Mr Ashurst's shoulder was a 'clear comparison' to Oram's trainers and indicated "a degree of violence and the intention to cause really serious injury".
Oram himself told the court he shoved and punched his neighbour before kicking him to his body.
He added that when he eventually stopped, his daughter looked to be in 'absolute shock'.
Oram, his wife Vicky and their two children had given Dave a new home in 2012 when his previous owners could no longer keep him due to personal circumstances.
The court heard Oram's father was also called Dave and, having recently died at the time, the family saw it as "a sign".
They already owned another bull terrier called Lola and Oram told the jury they all treated Dave "like a baby".
Asked about the day he was killed, Oram said he was driving to Birmingham for work when Jade phoned him to say she had banged on Mr Ashurst's door on realising Dave had escaped but Mr Ashurst would not let her in.
Oram added he told her to call police and then turned his car around and headed back to Gillingham.
Dave, who suffered a large gash to his body, was dead by the time he reached home.
Oram cried as he told the court: "There was just devastation and silence, just blown away that this happened. Everyone was upset. I was numb."