The mother of a murdered Preston teenager has paid tribute to Lancashire Police as a further four people were convicted of being involved in his death.Advertisement
Jonjo Highton was found with serious knife wounds in St Stephen’s Road, Deepdale, on Saturday 23 August.
Three men and a woman pleaded guilty to offences relating to the murder of Jonjo.
Mohammed Sabbah Dal, 20, pleaded guilty at Lincoln Crown Court on Thursday 16 July to conspiracy to commit GBH and was sentenced to seven years imprisonment..
Minhaj Musa, 21, pleaded guilty at Lincoln Crown Court on Thursday 16 July to conspiracy to commit GBH and was also sentenced to seven years imprisonment.
William Bore, 46, pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice and is due to be sentenced on Friday 31 July.
Natasha Tunstall, 28, pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice and is due to be sentenced on Friday 31 July.
Following their pleas Jonjo’s mother, Tracey Highton, gave an emotional defence of her son and praised the work of the police.
She said: “I would like to make it clear that Jonjo was not in any way involved with the incident that took place in the early hours of Saturday morning, that I believe started the planned attack that resulted in our son losing his life. Jonjo was set upon alone and because he was friends with the people involved.
“Some justice has been done but our Son, Brother, Grandson and Taylor’s Daddy is not coming back.
“We now have to try and live our lives the best we can without our Jonjo. Like I have said before, Jonjo was not perfect, but he was to me. He had a big heart and would help anybody.
“The night Jonjo died part of us died too. He is missed by so many.
“The word guilty and the sentences handed to those involved will never stop my pain or the pain inflicted on my family, but at least there has been some justice for Jonjo.
“Our lives will never be the same again, but we have to be strong and take one day at a time. I pray that as a family we can learn to live with losing Jonjo.
“I would like to thank the Prosecution team and the Police for working so hard to achieve these results.
“But most of all I would like to say a massive thank you to two very special ladies, Donna and Toni who are Detectives who took roles as our Family Liaison Officers. Without them we could not have got through this. They have been mine and Joe’s strength throughout.”
Detective Superintendent Eddie Thistlethwaite of the team who led the murder enquiry moved to reassure Prestonians this kind of incident was very rare.
He said: “This was a truly horrendous crime in which Jon-Jo was attacked needlessly and savagely and his family have been left devastated by the loss of their son, brother, grandson and a young father.
“This group of thugs took part in an unprovoked and vicious attack on Jon-Jo who was unarmed and simply walking home from an evening out. It was a premeditated and targeted attack on a defenceless associate, and the group armed themselves with weapons including a number of knives, an axe, a sword, a golf club and a brick. Two vehicles were driven, in tandem to the scene, acting in concert in a joint enterprise to take retribution not necessarily against Jonjo, but certainly him or one of his friends. This was a tragic waste of a young life.
“There then followed a concerted effort by others to assist them in covering their tracks. The behaviour of some of the defendants throughout the investigation has been appalling. They have lied for their own self-interest, showed little or no remorse and some even laughed, joked and became violent in the dock throughout a prolonged and difficult trial, which had to be endured by the Highton family.
“I have the greatest respect for and would like to thank the many witnesses, nearly all of them from the community of Preston, who came forward, provided statements and gave excellent evidence to help convict those responsible for and involved with this awful crime.
“I would also like to thank all of the members of a very large and skilled police investigation team, Mr Brett Gerrity from the Crown Prosecution Service and Counsel led by Mr Neil Flewitt QC. Each and every person involved has worked tirelessly, as one team together, to help bring about these convictions and sentences.
“It is important to remind the public that incidents of this nature are very rare in Lancashire and we are determined to tackle the root cause that can lead to this unnecessary loss of life.
“I believe drugs and gang culture played a huge role behind this attack. I would say to any young person involved in or linked to gangs or drug culture, to move away from those groups as there is an alternative route in life for you. Or if you fear your son or daughter may well have been lured in to it by others, help with drug treatment or gang diversionary tactics especially for young people is available. Preston police and partner agencies such as the local Discover (alcohol and drug services) and Young Peoples Services can provide help.
“You can speak in confidence with officers from our Early Action teams via 101 who are based across the county including Preston, South Ribble, Chorley and Skelmersdale in this area. They are specialised in dealing with issues of this nature and will listen to your call and help in directing you to the right service.
“Jonjo wanted to move away from such groups, seeking employment but sadly it was too late for him. Make sure it is not too late for you. The Constabulary and the Highton family would urge you to seek help now and make sure your life is not wasted.”
The four convictions come after six men were each jailed for life for their part in the murder of Jonjo.