A Catholic man who battered his openly gay flatmate on the head with a claw hammer has been found guilty of attempted murder. Joseph Williams, 21, inflicted "life-changing" head injuries on cross dressing Connor Huntley while he slept in their shared flat in Margate, Kent, in May last year.
Williams was today found guilty and sentenced to 14 years in prison, which he will serve in a high security hospital until he is deemed fit to leave. Sentencing at the Old Bailey, Judge Jeremy Donne QC told Williams: "On May 28, 2013 you picked up a hammer, went into the bedroom of your sleeping flat mate and brought it down two times on his head.
"Not only did it fracture his skull but it was embedded in his brain. The injuries suffered by Connor Huntley were little short of catastrophic. They were life-changing. It is fortunate in the extreme for both him as for you that he did not die. That was only down to the skill of the medical personnel treating him but he will never be able to live an ordinary life. He will be never be able to enjoy all the things that young people enjoy doing. You have taken away a good part of his life."
After the attack, Williams told a 999 operator what he had done saying his mental health had "deteriorated'', the court heard. Kent Police went to the flat in Athelstan Road, Cliftonville, Margate, and found Mr Huntley on a blood-splattered inflatable air bed still alive but with the claw hammer embedded in his head.
The victim, who was 18 at the time, was taken to hospital where he was treated for a depressed skull fracture and a penetrating brain injury. The court heard that Williams came from a Catholic background and a few months before had made disparaging remarks about gay men.
In contrast, Mr Huntley was openly gay and often wore women's clothes and make-up. Just a week before the attack, the defendant had told his neighbour, a friend of Mr Huntley, that he did not know if he could live with him because he would end up hitting him.
Reacting to the verdict, Detective Inspector Richard Vickery said: "This was a nasty and seemingly unprovoked attack, with Williams striking Connor on the head whilst he was defenceless and asleep. It is only due to the skills of medical staff that Connor is alive today. Connor has suffered life-changing injuries and I hope that today's verdict will assist Connor and his family to move forward and concentrate on improving his quality of life, both physically and psychologically."
Mr Huntley's family said in a statement: "Whilst Connor is making slow but steady progress from this horrific ordeal, we feel he has been handed his own life sentence by this hideous act. No one deserves to be so viciously attacked in such an evil manner, regardless of race, age, gender or sexuality. Whilst we are grateful for all your kind and meaningful get-well wishes, as a family we would ask that you respect ours and Connor's privacy at this horrendous point in our lives and allow us the time and space to concentrate on Connor's physical and mental rehabilitation."