UK
18/07/2013 09:52 BST | Updated 18/07/2013 09:57 BST

Ashley Foster Found Guilty Of Killing Church Organist Alan Greaves On Christmas Eve

Alan Greaves was on his way to midnight mass on Christmas Eve when he was killed
PA
Alan Greaves was on his way to midnight mass on Christmas Eve when he was killed

A 22-year-old man has been found guilty of killing a church organist who was battered to death on his way to midnight mass on Christmas Eve.

Ashley Foster was convicted of manslaughter by a jury at Sheffield Crown Court after a trial that heard how Alan Greaves was attacked near his home in the High Green area of the city.

The jury found Foster not guilty of murder.

Another man, Jonathan Bowling, also 22, had already admitted murdering the 68-year-old grandfather.

Both men will be sentenced tomorrow.

ashley foster
Ashley Foster, aged 22, found guilty of manslaughter

There was confusion in court after the clerk only asked the jury foreman whether Foster was guilty of murder.

When the foreman said "not guilty" there were celebrations from Foster's family.

But as Mr Greaves's widow Maureen looked shocked and confused, the jury foreman, who had already been asked to sit, shouted "but guilty of manslaughter".

At this point Foster's girlfriend Natalie Evers burst into tears and ran from the court screaming.

The jury of six men and six women returned its verdicts after 13 hours of deliberations.

Mrs Greaves, 63, has sat through every day of the trial with many members of her family.

During the three-and-a-half-week trial, prosecutors described how father-of-four Mr Greaves was severely beaten with a pick-axe handle and another weapon that has never been found, possibly a hammer.

He suffered horrendous head injuries and died in hospital three days later with his family around him.

The court heard how Foster, of Wesley Road, High Green, and Bowling, of Carwood Way, Pitsmoor, had left a family gathering earlier that evening.

According to prosecutors they were stalking the streets of High Green looking for someone to attack. If they had not killed the pensioner it would have been someone else, the jury was told.

Father-of-two Foster gave evidence during the trial and claimed he shouted to try to stop Bowling attacking Mr Greaves and was a distance away at the time.

He claimed he did not tell police what happened because he was terrified of Bowling and his family.

The jury heard Foster has never had a proper job, although he did casual work at a local farm.

jonathan bowling
Jonathan Bowling had previously admitted murdering Mr Greaves

The pair had known each other since their early teens when Bowling's father was in a relationship with Foster's mother.

After the verdict was clarified, Mrs Greaves sobbed in the public gallery and was comforted by members of her family.

She has sat through every day of the trial.

Speaking outside court, Mrs Greaves said: "Alan was a man driven by love and compassion and he would not want any of us to hold on to feelings of hate and unforgiveness.

"So, in honour of Alan and in honour of the God we both love, my prayer is that this story doesn't end today.

"My prayer is that Jonathan Bowling and Ashley Foster will come to understand and experience the love and kindness of the God who made him in his own image and that God's great mercy will inspire them to true repentance."