Teenager sentenced following the murder of Josh Hall
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A sixteen-year-old boy has been sentenced for the murder of fellow teenager Josh Hall last year.
Harley Demmon, 16 and of Church Road in Cam, appeared at Gloucester Crown Court this morning, Friday 4 February, and was handed a minimum term of 14 years in prison for Josh’s murder and possession of an offensive weapon in a public place.
He will also be on license for life and recalled to prison if he reoffends upon his release.
The teen can now be named after a court application was granted to waive his anonymity, previously imposed under section 45 of the Youth Justice Act of 1999.
The sentencing follows a three-week trial in October which ended with a jury taking just over three hours to reach their verdict.
Josh, 17, suffered multiple stab and slash wounds during an attack at the Cam Sports Ground in Dursley on Friday 16 April 2021.
He was operated on by emergency services at the scene, but died the next day at Southmead Hospital in Bristol after a wound in his abdomen proved to be fatal.
Demmon, who was 15 at the time, had arranged for himself and Hall to meet at the playing field to settle their differences following a feud over social media, however events escalated almost immediately as the offender fatally stabbed Hall a number of times.
After the stabbing, he called a significant number of people before ultimately calling 999 to report what he had done. Despite this he continued to deny killing Hall throughout the trial and also plead not guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
At one stage the teen openly admitted to casually carrying a kitchen knife as if he would a mobile phone and it was found that he acquired the weapon after stealing it from a friend.
A pathologist examined Hall's body after his death and found that he had sustained six sharp force injuries. These were present on his abdomen, hands and arms.
The clothing Hall had been wearing was forensically examined and showed significant blood stains and visible wound marks. DNA on the handle of the knife matched that of the suspect and the blood splatters matched the victim’s profile.
Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Superintendent John Turner said: "We all too regularly see the impact that the murder of a loved one can have and I would like to highlight how Josh's amazing family remained so dignified throughout the whole process.
"Everyone from the Major Crime Investigation Team would like to highlight the assistance that we received from the whole community of Dursley and Cam as well as the massive outpouring of love and support they gave.
"The death of a young person in these circumstances has had a huge impact but there has been a continued sense of willingness from the community (of all ages) to engage with the police, which enabled the investigation team to understand and present what had happened to the jury.
“This ultimately resulted in them reaching the guilty verdict within three hours and I hope that this will allow the Hall’s to have some form of closure in knowing that their son’s killer is behind bars."
Josh's parents Mike and Kirsty Hall spoke about the impact of his murder adding: "Losing one of our children in such a horrific and utterly unnecessary way has completely derailed the course of our lives.
"Time is doing little to dull the aching sense of loss and deep pain we feel along with disbelief at the hatred and disregard for life displayed by Josh's killer.
"He has condemned those who love Josh to a lifetime of pain for nothing, for no gain and no purpose other than his own violent self-gratification.
"We are relieved that Josh's killer is now rightly behind bars and no longer an immediate danger to society however we are still left with a life sentence without our son and brother.
"The void left behind by Josh's murder can't be overstated and we feel his absence in every moment.
"We would like to express our continued thanks to Gloucestershire Constabulary, in particular the Major Crime Team, the staff of the Crown Prosecution Service, the members of the Courts Voluntary support team and our family liaison officer as well as all of those who have helped fight for justice for Josh.
"We are forever grateful for the thorough work completed by all and the care and support shown to us at every stage."
Sergeant Garrett Gloyn from the Stroud Neighbourhood Policing Team also said: “I’ve personally met Josh's parents, Kirsty and Mike, who have my deepest condolences but also my admiration for the strength and character they have shown in trying to make sure that nothing like this happens again in Dursley or Cam.
"The local Neighbourhood Policing Team as a whole saw and felt the effects of the awful murder of Josh. It’s been our privilege to contribute to the investigation and to see the way that members of community have come forward to assist the investigation and to promote better community safety in the future."
Joanne Pearce, Senior Crown Prosecutor for CPS South West, said: “The prosecution’s case was that when he went to meet Joshua that day the defendant brought a knife with the intention of using it. His deliberate use of that knife against Joshua resulted in the heart-breaking and tragic loss of a young life.
“As a consequence of a knife being carried a family has experienced the loss of a much-loved son and a brother. The defendant will now be imprisoned for the rest of his youth and a significant part of this adult life.
“The case also highlights a profoundly negative impact of social media use by teenagers, with its instant nature leading to disputes that can escalate very quickly.
“Joshua’s family have shown incredible strength throughout the legal process and our thoughts are with them, and with Josh’s friends, as this case comes to its conclusion.
“The CPS is committed to working with our criminal justice partners to tackle knife crime and we will prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law.”
Victim Impact Statements from Mike and Kirsty Hall can be seen below
"I stand here before you as Joshua’s mum and I always will be.
"The moment that the police officer knocked my door on that sunny Friday and asked me if I was Joshua’s mum I instinctively knew even before she spoke that my world as I know it was ending and it did; a trapdoor opened and I fell, never ever to return as the same Kirsty again.
"It took under one minute for our world as we knew it to blow up into a million pieces and my happy, smiley, kind and loving best friend was never ever coming home. The last words Josh said to me and his little brother were his usual way of saying goodbye “I love you and I’ll see you in a bit” I live with the constant regret of not pulling him off that doorstep and locking the door to keep him safe, I wonder if you can imagine how that feels for just a second.
"All of the time waiting in the hospital talking to josh and telling him he can’t leave me and he must stay and fight. And fight he did for 11 hours until the moment we were able to be with him. My last words to Josh as I was lying next to him with my arms wrapped around him were “you are hurt so badly Josh and you’re not coming back from this, go and be with your sister I promise I’ll be okay don’t worry about me”. This memory haunts me and will haunt me forever of my small beautiful broken baby laying on a bed surrounded by tubes, I no longer can have the air conditioning on in my car because it sounds like one of the pumps used in ICU and this triggers my grief every time I hear it. I only need to close my eyes and I’m right there back in that room and in many ways I would stay there forever just to be with him if I could.
"What’s it like being the mother of a murdered child?; simply put, it’s unbelievable, no words that I could say here would ever describe it fully but I will say this, my life is now lived in five-minute chunks because it’s too overwhelming to focus on a future without Josh, the majority of my day is spent functioning to the best level I can even though I want to lay in bed and sleep my life away, I sleep in chunks throughout the night but never ever a full night’s sleep since this happened. I cry in my car every day then pull up at work wipe my tears and put my armour on to face the day and I try to be the best mother I could be for Eli, and of course for Josh. I try and represent Josh in every single way and every single day. Anger has no place in my heart, it’s not how I bring my children up and it’s not Joshua, however I will never forgive or understand the actions that took my son away.
"The image of Josh stumbling around after being stabbed and saying, to quote one of the eyewitnesses “I’ve been stabbed in a scared and small voice” tortures me and I challenge any mother to think about that just for a second. The fact that this was done by the hand of someone else is incomprehensible however this is a fact that I have to comprehend every single day. I have had to sit in a court room and have every single fact about this case argued back and forth and long delays and issues and we have not had the opportunity to speak well this is my opportunity to stand up and allow my family , my voice and Joshua’s voice to be heard.
"We must take a stand against this, we live in rural Gloucestershire where knife crime is extremely uncommon and is frankly unheard of in Cam and Dursley. Now we must stand up and say ‘No this isn’t happening here’, the only way we can do this is with a sentence that reflects the premeditated savagery of this attack. Regardless of age the facts of the case remain the same and the sentence must act as a deterrent to young people carrying and potentially using knives in our areas, this is the courts opportunity to take a stand against this.
"Even at the last hurdle there have been delays to the sentencing which have further prevented our family from trying move on from the ordeal of the murder, particularly at the already painful time of Christmas without Josh. The deep mental and emotional impact upon our family in steeling ourselves for another day in court, only to have the date pushed back can’t be overstated. Yet again we have to put our life on hold.
"For you Harley; I hope one day you will comprehend the actions you took on that day, decimating a family and changing the course of my family’s lives forever. Joshua’s younger brother is now an only child and has a lifetime ahead of him to grasp without his brother and myself and Michael without our son. We will never ever be the same people again because you took that knife and repeatedly used it in the most violent way you could think of, you apologised when you were on the stand and I now want to take an opportunity to respond; you have misrepresented facts throughout the legal process to extricate yourself from the consequences of YOUR actions. I do not accept your apology and I will never find forgiveness for the action you took on that day."
"The moment my wife called on Friday 16th April 2021 is etched into my memory. Kirsty, usually composed, was so frantic that she didn't make sense. I thought something had happened to the dog or our youngest son, who suffers mild seizures. However a police officer took the phone from her and told me that Josh had been stabbed. Whilst we spent 11 hours waiting at Southmead Hospital we offered silent prayers to Josh that he would survive. I made countless offers to swap places or to give what strength I had for Josh to help him live. We were told that once he was moved into ICU he would be over the first hurdle and we could see him. Near midnight we were moved to a side room in ICU with our initial joyous hope replaced by deep shock when the medical team all entered the room. Our hearts dropped into an abyss. Kirsty went silent as the lead consultant told her that they were no longer saving Josh's life but prolonging his death and he was being kept alive by machines alone. When we went into Josh's room and saw our beautiful boy laid on the bed full of medical equipment and very obviously in a terrible state, he looked so fragile, so small and so entirely broken. I knelt and kissed his hand, Kirsty went to the other side of the bed but very quickly began to unravel. I told her that we had one opportunity to do right by Josh and it would stay with us forever. After some minutes the lead surgeon came into the room, Kirsty and I shared a nod of agreement and I asked that whilst it may not be our decision to turn off Josh's life-support, could the doctor allow us to influence his decision to do so at that moment. Josh deserved far better than to be hooked up to machines and spend hours slowly dying whilst we selfishly clung on. The doctor nodded to the ICU nurse, who started to turn the machines off.
"Kirsty got onto bed next to Josh and told him stories of his childhood, I stood at his head, kissing his forehead, telling him how much he was loved and how proud we are of him. As the life support monitors slowed, Kirsty told Josh that he was in a bad way and wouldn't be coming back but it was ok to go because we were there, we loved him and we’d help him. At 1:05am the monitors stopped, his breathing stopped, we knew he’d died and our world had broken into irreparable pieces. In her shock Kirsty stood in front of me and told me that it wasn’t Josh on the bed and that I needed to go and get our Josh and bring him home. I had to shatter her delusion and tell her that Josh was dead and that it was indeed our son on the bed in front of us.
"The howl of pain & despair that Kirsty let out as she crumpled to the floor will stay with me forever. As we made our way to the car park, Kirsty's maternal instincts were screaming at her to go and collect her son and bring him home safe with us. I had to forcibly walk her to our car.
"Josh's younger brother is six years old & was hugging Kirsty's legs as the police officer explained that Josh had been stabbed & was badly hurt We left Eli with his grandparents overnight after Josh died so that Kirsty & I could fall to pieces without Eli watching. When we collected him early the next day (Sunday 18th April) we took the decision to tell him at his grandparent’s house. As we tried to take him on a walk his words of protest were ‘I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do this now.’ Somehow he knew what was coming. I explained to our little boy that his brother had been badly hurt & had died in hospital & wouldn’t be coming home again. Eli curled into a small ball as his heart broke. All Kirsty & I could do was to wrap him in our arms and hug on the ground together for a moment as he sobbed. We felt that Josh’s funeral was not the right place for Eli, so instead we created a small ceremony for him to say goodbye to his brother. I wrote letters to Eli and Josh & made paper boats for our sons, covered with messages of love. We took a trip to the New Forest and read the letters to Eli by a secluded riverside, before he sailed Josh’s paper boat down the river.
"Eli loves drawing pictures but now he draws pictures of Josh standing next to Eli in front of our house with Josh’s bedroom light turned on, the way it always used to be. He misses Josh bounding downstairs to greet him after school every day and looks at Josh's window when we pull onto the drive to see if his bedroom light is on today. One day the primary school called me to explain that Eli had told them he wanted to die and go to heaven so he could be with his brother and our hearts broke further.
"Since Josh's death I look at Eli with deep sadness, I see an empty space next to him where his brother would normally be. We're terrified of the pain that Eli will feel as he gets older.
"The hopelessness we now feel is compounded by the fact that Kirsty has simply always been an excellent mother to her children. My wife always found peace by spending time with her sons. Whether trying to bake cakes with Eli before he eats the mixture or playing rough-and-tumble with them both, I couldn't be more proud of how she lives for her boys. Even though Josh was certainly spending less time around the family unit, he was becoming less a child & more a friend to his mum. They would walk the dog together, message constantly and Josh would take time to spend a peaceful & uninterrupted ten minutes with his mum whilst I put Eli to bed each night. For her there is no escape from the nightmare.
"I find myself unable to concentrate for more than five to ten minutes which has put strain on my work. I'm always anxious that I will receive a phone call telling me Eli has been hurt or died. The ache & pain I feel in my chest is constant & I feel scarred by the events we've had to go through, from the night Josh died and formally identifying Josh's body to the coroner's office, to decisions around Josh's post-mortem & being dragged through a trial. Since Josh’s death I’ve experienced my first panic attack during a hospital visit, lying on my back staring at the ceiling tiles where I pictured what Josh may have seen had he opened his eyes in theatre. I broke down alongside Kirsty as we prepared Josh’s funeral clothes & I vomited in my car when Kirsty called me at work to tell me Josh’s ashes had been passed to our funeral director. Each milestone reminds me that there is no fooling myself he might yet walk through the door.
"We’re private people which made the public nature of Josh’s murder difficult in our small & fairly rural community; considering press & social media as well as the fact that Josh & Kirsty’s image has been part of the news coverage. Kirsty now avoids going to local shops, instead driving to Gloucester as she’s less likely to be recognised. Whilst the majority of our local community have been deeply supportive, there’s no escaping the looks of recognition or the abject horror & disgust we feel at seeing someone related to Josh’s murderer.
"Now we measure the passing of time in 'months since Josh was killed.’ We dreaded Josh’s 18th birthday this September (2021). It feels so cruel that Josh was killed just as he was about to take the next big steps in his life; doing well at college, learning to drive, beginning a relationship with his girlfriend as well as securing a job in his chosen career.
"We’ve been contacted by people who were helped by Josh through their own dark times, where Josh was able to bring some hope & kindness into their lives. We’re thankful for the miracle that Josh was able to make it to hospital at all considering the number & severity of his injuries; & the effort & care given by so many to try to save Josh’s life that day in April. We mourn Josh deeply, we mourn who both he and Eli might have been & we mourn the people we all were, hopeful, grateful, kind & trying to make the world a slightly better place where possible. There are not words enough to describe the deep & unending pain we feel at our son being taken from us."