Two men stand trial for axe murder of man on New Year’s Eve in row over a cigarette

November 19, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

Two men accused of killing a man with an axe went out looking for carnage after posing for pictures armed with huge knives less than an hour before their murderous rampage, a court heard.

Ryan Williams and Donald Pemberton posted this picture on Facebook just a couple of hours before Tanis Bhandari was killed (SWNS Group)

Ryan Williams and Donald Pemberton posted this picture on Facebook just a couple of hours before Tanis Bhandari was killed (SWNS Group)

Builder Tanis Bhandari died trying to protect his friends from Donald Pemberton, 21, and Ryan Williams, 22, who had gone out on New Year’s Eve “looking for trouble,” the jury was told.

Tanis, 27, was part of a group confronted by the duo who had gone on a violent rampage after arming themselves with an axe and “at least one knife.”

Chilling images shown to the jury, revealed Pemberton and Williams posted on Facebook wielding huge bladed weapons as they prepared for their night of violence, the court heard.

Simon Laws QC, prosecuting at Plymouth Crown Court, said Tanis’ group was attacked “for no reason at all” and described it as “violence for the sake of violence”.

Tanis, of Tamerton Foliot, Devon, was pronounced dead on arrival at Derriford Hospital after suffering fatal injuries during an attack outside the Kings Arms pub at around 1.30am on New Year’s Day.

The court heard the duo also inflicted violence on four other members of the group during the attack.

Jamie Healy “lost his spleen and kidney and was lucky to survive”, while Sean Cordon was “stabbed in the back and was also lucky and fortunate not to have been more badly injured.”

Another friend George Walker suffered a stab wound to the arm “as he raised it to protect himself” and also had knife injuries to his neck.

Both defendants deny all five counts all relating to one incident in the early hours of New Year’s Day in the sleepy village of Tamerton Foliot.

They are jointly charged of murdering Tanis, three counts of causing grievous bodily harm to Jamie Healy, Sean Cordon and George Walker and one count of actual bodily harm to Matthew Dawe.

Tanis Bhandari who was killed with an axe on New Year’s Eve (SWNS Group)

Tanis Bhandari who was killed with an axe on New Year’s Eve (SWNS Group)

Mr Laws said the pair went armed with weapons that included at least one axe and a knife.

He said: “The victims were unarmed and completely unprepared for what was to come.
That gave the defendants, you may think, an overwhelming advantage.

“They left behind a scene of carnage.”

Mr Laws noted how Tanis “died trying to protect his friends.”

He said: “It seems to be that this was violence for its own sake – there is no motive here.

“It was pure bad luck that their route crossed the paths of these two men who were, that night, simply looking for trouble.”

The court heard that Pemberton and Williams had attended a party hosted by the former’s brother Damien that evening.

They were “tipsy and high spirited” and while there they asked if they could see his collection of knives.

Mr Laws said the pair did more than look at the knives:

He said: “They posed with them and with other weapons and they took photographs of themselves posing.

“The photographs were posted to Donald Pemberton’s Facebook.”

Donald Pemberton posted this picture on Facebook just a couple of hours before Tanis Bhandari was killed (SWNS Group)

Donald Pemberton posted this picture on Facebook just a couple of hours before Tanis Bhandari was killed (SWNS Group)

Mr Laws said the jury should use their own judgement about what the photos say, but he suggested it could be of “two young men trying to display themselves as… powerful and aggressive and enjoying the show.”

He stressed the weapons shown on Facebook were not those prosecutors alleged to have been used on Tanis and his friends.

Mr Laws said the pair armed themselves with weapons – the axe and knife which were passed around the jury to examine – before leaving the party at around 1.15am.

The jury were shown a map, plotting points where the pair encountered other revellers, some heading home after enjoying their night out.

The first encounter was near a bus stop where they asked a young woman and her boyfriend for a cigarette, shoulder barging the young man.

At a roundabout one of them jumped in front of a car, which “frightened” the female driver.

Another driver saw Williams in the middle of the road in a stance “a bit like a boxer” while the other man – Pemberton – sprinted at the car “angry and aggressive”.

Some of this incident was captured on CCTV which was shown to the jury.

Mr Laws said the next incident involving a group of four revellers near the entrance to Milford Lane saw the increasingly aggressive behaviour of the accused “escalate”.

He said one of the pair called out ‘what are you looking at?’

One of the pair approached one of the group, William Hickey, who said the man pulled out a “kitchen or fishing knife, six inches long” which was “held to his face for ten or 20 seconds”.

The man, later identified as Pemberton, said “Oi, my mate was ****ing talking to you”.

Mr Laws said the group managed to move away and immediately called police.

Mr Laws said: “That call was made at 1.36am, 20 minutes or so after they left the party at Cunningham Road, five episodes of aggression.”

Mr Laws said that at 1.36am, police received the 999 call from people who said they had been threatened by men with knives by the green.

Mr Laws noted how the caller and his friends “could hear screams coming from the direction of The Kings Arms, because the defendants had begun their attack”.

Ryan Williams & Don Pemberton leaving Plymouth Magistrates Court (SWNS Group)

Ryan Williams & Don Pemberton leaving Plymouth Magistrates Court (SWNS Group)

Witnesses today (thurs) described the incident in which Tanis died and four of his friends were wounded during a murdering rampage with an axe and knife as a “massacre.”

Simon Laws QC, prosecuting at Plymouth Crown Court, revealed Tanis had bravely attempted to disarm a man attacking them with an axe, but was fatally stabbed in the back by the other assailant in the process.

He said: “Tanis was on top of Pemberton trying to restrain him in a struggle to hold down a man who had just produced an axe and came at his friends.”

Tanis initially thought he had been punched – but had been stabbed in the back by Williams, the jury was told.

He was part of a group on their way to a party after leaving New Year’s Eve celebrations at the Kings Arms pub.

But the court heard their celebrations quickly turned to tragedy.

Mr Laws added: “For people at the Kings Arms the last thing they were expecting was to be the victims of an attack of this kind

“When it came it came suddenly, and with force of the kind none of us expect to experience in our lives. There was a lot of blood and a great deal of fear and confusion.

“A police sergeant described the scene as the most distressing and horrific he had encountered.”

Mr Laws said it had been described by one of those involved as a “massacre” that was totally unprovoked.

He said: “The scene the police encountered was chaotic and confused, one sergeant said ‘all around me there were men and women who were absolutely hysterical, the majority of them had blood on them’

“The Kings Arms was full of locals; everyone present speaks of an evening that was enjoyable and free from trouble of any kind.

“The pub was closing at the time the defendants were heading towards it.

“The defendants were close by, they were armed and in the mood for conflict.

“One group from the pub wanted to carry on the evening in the home of Sean Cordon, Tanis was among that group.

“The defendants then approached them asking for a cigarette, which was a way of getting the attention of strangers before starting trouble.

“Pemberton took his axe out and came at the group, Williams drew his knife.

“The group at the green did what comes instinctively; they either did their best to get out of harms way, or whatever they could do to contain the attackers.

“You will not be surprised to learn the accounts of the next few minutes is far from perfect.

“But this is not a case that depends on the details of these accounts, what is clear is that men were involved in the attack on the group on the green, both were armed, and they acted together.

“They injured five people, one of whom died, and afterwards they left together travelling up Milford Lane on foot.”

The Kings Arms in Tamerton Foliot, Devon where Tanis Bhandari was killed (SWNS Group)

The Kings Arms in Tamerton Foliot, Devon where Tanis Bhandari was killed (SWNS Group)

The defendants were arrested at the top of the lane at about 2.05am with Pemberton still carrying an axe that was concealed in his tracksuit bottoms.

Mr Laws said: “He also dropped a grey and red jacket just as police approached him.

“A knife was recovered on Milford Lane during searches the following day. which had been taken from the Cunningham Road where these defendants were at a party.

“A smaller knife was also recovered a while later.”

The defendants clothing was seized and forensically examined. The axe was found with traces of blood from George Walker, who was one of those attacked on the green.

The large knife had DNA from Ryan Williams on it and his jacket, containing Tanis’ blood, was also recovered close by.

Further DNA from Tanis was found on the right knee of Williams’ tracksuit bottoms, and a mobile phone belonging to Ryan Williams was later recovered from the green.

Mr Laws said: “What we can say with certainty are that these two men were at the scene of these crimes and they had at least a large knife and an axe with them when they were there.

“If two men set upon others with weapons of the kind these men were carrying and they know one another to be carrying weapons they are intending to do serious harm and are both responsible for the injuries caused.

“They both played a part in the joint plan and they are both liable for its result.”

Witnesses say they saw Tanis on the floor fighting with Pemberton who had “lunged” at them with an axe.

The court heard he was then stabbed twice by Williams.

One member of the group Deana Moore described to police the moment they were asked for a cigarette and after being refused says one defendant “pulled an axe from his tracksuit.

Mr Laws said: “She describes her group as doing nothing in the way of provocation and she described a man with anaxe lunging at one of the group.

“Deana said the group responded by jumping on him and pinning him to the ground in order to defend themselves.

“The axe then fell to the ground.

“In the confusion that followed she believes the other defendant, who had a knife, was stabbing people, if she’s right that man was Williams. She said it was like a massacre.

“When his friend helped him up, Tanis was saying he had hurt his back and she could see he was not right. In fact, he had been fatally stabbed and collapsed to the ground.”

Another witness Billie Edmonds remembers seeing a bundle on the ground, and a man waving a knife at her and her boyfriend, George Walker.

He put himself between her and the man and was then dragged back into the safety of the pub.

Mr Laws said: “George Walker saw a man with a knife waving it at two women; he ran over and got between the two women and the man with the knife.

“He said he raised his hands to protect his head and the man lunged at him with a knife, he said he thought the attacker was trying to kill him.

“He sustained injuries to his neck and chest as the attackers kept coming at him.”

The prosecution said that while Tanis was on the floor his friends were trying to kick his attacker while others thought they would also be killed.

The attackers then fled the scene and neighbours heard them shouting: ‘I am going to come back down there and stab you up’ and ‘come up this lane you pussies and I will stab the lot of you.’

After being arrested, initially for attempted murder, Pemberton them told police “he can die all he likes, I don’t fucking care.”

Williams also started kicking out and threatened to kill the police in the van.

Tanis was pronounced dead just after 2.30am after suffering two wounds, one to his right shoulder blade, and another that cut through the bone of his ribs into his lungs.

Mr Healey was the most seriously injured of the other four and was “lucky to survive”.

When questioned by police Williams declined to comment but later produced a statement where he claims to not have been involved at all in the incident.

Pemberton also denies attacking the group, but claims he had been attacked by them, blacked out and woke up with an axe next to him on the ground.

He says he then put it in his waist and walked off.

The trial continues.

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