Vigilante jailed for life for murder of defenceless gentle giant

A vigilante who murdered a defenceless "gentle giant" in the street over a misunderstanding has been jailed for life.
Newcastle Crown Court.Newcastle Crown Court.
Newcastle Crown Court.

Friendly Jason Lord was walking towards his home on January 20 when he greeted a young girl as he passed but did not stop.

But upon hearing about the exchange and questioning Mr Lord’s intentions, which were entirely harmless and innocent, killer Steven Walton jumped in a car, found him and set out to find him.

By that time, intoxicated Mr Lord had lost his balance and was lying on the ground 200 yards from his home.

Upon seeing him, Walton approached and then kicked and stamped on his head, shouting and swearing before leaving him for dead.

The assault left Mr Lord with fatal head injuries and his body later found by a resident who immediately rang 999. Sadly, he was confirmed dead at the scene.

Walton, 42, of The Crossway, Kenton, Newcastle, denied murder but was yesterday found guilty by a jury following a six-day trial at Newcastle Crown Court.

At the same court today, Walton was jailed for life and told he must serve at least 18 years behind bars.

Judge Roger Thomas told him: "Jason Lord was a pleasant 50 year old man who had never done anybody any harm and on the night you, Steven Walton, killed him he certainly hadn’t done anybody any harm or wrong, as everybody in this case, including you, acknowledges.

"His sister describes him as ‘a gentle giant with a kind word for everybody’. She says that ‘he liked to have a drink and was a happy drunk, being no threat to anybody’.

"He had moderate learning difficulties and he had regular care support. His brother-in-law describes him as ‘a large built man who could not handle himself, he was kind and soft hearted, he always saw good in everybody he met, he was forever generous’.

"Each of those individuals describes, in telling statements signed today, that they, and Mr Lord’s elderly mother who has been unable to attend court, have had their lives ‘devastated’ by the loss of their loved one."

Judge Thomas said Mr Lord's family has been left "heartbroken" by what happened to him.

The judge told Walton: "You acted as some sort of vigilante in taking the law into your own hands to mete out punishment upon Mr Lord who was in fact an entirely harmless and innocent man making his way home."

The court heard Walton previously served a four year sentence in a Young Offenders Institution for causing the death of three young people by dangerous driving when he was 17 or 18.

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Ben Nolan KC, defending, said the people who died in the crash were Walton's friends and added: "They were in the back of a very old car, it didn't belong to him, he borrowed it from a friend. The old car wasn't fitted with rear seat belts and the victims were all in the rear of the car."

Mr Nolan said Walton still has flashback to what happened that night and may have post-traumatic stress disorder.

The court heard Walton is married with children.

He claimed during the trial he had just wanted to speak to Mr Lord and did not intend any serious harm when he attacked him.

Speaking after the conviction, Northumbria Police Detective Chief Inspector

Angela Hudson, the senior investigating officer in the case, said: “First and foremost, I’d like to thank Jason’s family for their strength and poise shown over the last seven months since he was cruelly taken away from them.

“We have been committed to bringing Jason’s killer to justice ever since this awful incident, and I sincerely hope today’s outcome can offer them some comfort.

“On the night he was murdered, Jason was simply walking home when he greeted a young girl as he passed her on the pavement. He did not stop or try to engage in conversation - quite simply, he acted as anyone might have done.

“Walton’s actions, upon hearing about the exchange, were entirely hysterical and his decision to jump in a car and then carry out this brutal attack have destroyed more than one life forever.

“There is never any acceptable excuse for violence, and as a Force we will continue to look to take swift and robust action against perpetrators."