Church organist killer loses sentence appeal

Maureen Greaves with her husband Alan
Maureen Greaves with her husband Alan

A man who battered a church organist to death as he walked to Midnight Mass in Sheffield has lost his appeal against his minimum 25-year sentence.

Jonathan Bowling was jailed for life at Sheffield Crown Court last July for the murder of lay preacher Alan Greaves, aged 68.

Bowling, 22, battered devout Christian Mr Greaves around the head with a pick-axe handle as the pensioner walked to play the organ for a midnight service at St Saviour’s Church in High Green on December 24, 2012.

The father-of-four suffered catastrophic head injuries and died three days later in hospital.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, Mr Justice Silber and Mr Justice Globe said the personal statement of Mr Greaves’s widow Maureen made clear the devastating effect the murder had on her and the rest of the family.

Lord Thomas said they agreed with the trial judge’s assessment that although Bowling may not have intended to kill, the brutality of the attack and the force he used showed he was entirely indifferent to the risk that he might.

“There was recklessness of the highest degree.”

He said they were satisfied the aggravating factors in the case would have set the minimum term to one in excess of 30 years had there not been a guilty plea.

“In our judgment, the judge came to the perfectly correct conclusion,” said Lord Thomas.

He added: “This was without doubt a vicious, pre-planned attack on a vulnerable man using a weapon and on a Christmas Eve. His plea of guilty was his only mitigation.

“We have no doubt whatever that the minimum term of 25 years less time on remand was entirely appropriate, would safeguard the public and ensure there was just punishment and retribution for this terrible crime.

“There is no basis whatsoever for this application.”