Killer jailed for 20 years deliberately running down Grimsby cyclist

Killer, 23, who deliberately drove his car at a cyclist, 35, in a ‘revenge attack’ based on unfounded rumours posted a laughing emoji on a Facebook update by the victim’s heartbroken partner

  • Liam Boydell, 23, admitted murdering Reece Braithwaite at Hull Crown Court
  • Boydell will serve a minimum of 20 years before he is considered for parole 

A callous murderer who deliberately drove his car at a cyclist and ‘ran him down’ in a vigilante revenge attack will spend a minimum of 20 years in prison after being jailed for life.

Reece Braithwaite, 35, was mortally injured in the incident and died four days later having suffered ‘massive and unsurvivable’ brain injuries.

Police were called to reports that a man had been hit by a silver Vauxhall Crossland car in Carnforth Crescent, Grimsby, at about 5.20pm on May 21. The car had left the scene. The driver, Liam Boydell, 23, of Grimsby, admitted murder at a very early stage in the proceedings at Hull Crown Court.

He will not be considered by the Parole Board for release until he has served a minimum of 20 years behind bars, less the 192 days that he has spent in custody on remand. 

Boydell, wearing a grey sweatshirt with a white motif and black, green-edged stripes down the sleeves, looked upset and waved to supporters in the public gallery as he left the dock to be taken down to the cells. There were shouts of ‘Stay strong. Love you, brother’ from the public gallery.

Liam Boydell, 23, from Grimsby, pictured, was jailed for a minimum of 20 years having admitted the murder of Reece Braithwaite, 35 in May

Reece Braithwaite, 35, pictured, was mortally injured after Boydell drove straight at him and failed to stop following the incident on Chelmsford Avenue, Grimsby on May 21. Mr Braithwaite died on May 24

Richard Wright KC, prosecuting, said that Mr Braithwaite was riding a bicycle in the Carnforth Crescent area on May 21 and had stopped and was sitting astride it on a footpath close to the the mouth of the junction with Chelmsford Avenue. Boydell had a passenger with him in the Vauxhall Crossland as they drove past Mr Braithwaite. After seeing the cyclist, Boydell deliberately drove back to make a second pass of him.

‘This time, he steered his vehicle deliberately onto the pavement so that all four tyres were on the pavement and he was travelling at not less than 24mph and potentially as fast as 29mph,’ said Mr Wright.

‘Without slowing in any way, he drove straight through the deceased, who was still sitting astride his bicycle. The massive impact propelled Reece onto the bonnet and the windscreen of the car and then into the road.’

Boydell drove away at speed and made no attempt to stop or give any assistance. He later accepted that he intended to cause harm. Despite the best efforts of paramedics and surgeons, Mr Braithwaite suffered ‘massive and unsurvivable’ brain injuries and he died on May 24.

Boydell had deliberately targeted Mr Braithwaite as a result of completely unfounded rumours that had been put about by an associate of Boydell. It was a ‘deliberate act of revenge’ and he used the car as a weapon, having made a deliberate decision to return in the car for a second time.

‘The killing of Reece was a deliberate act of targeted vigilantism,’ said Mr Wright. Boydell had shown a determination to inflict really serious injuries. He was arrested from his mother’s home on May 25.

While Mr Braithwaite was critically ill in hospital, Boydell posted a laughing emoji on Facebook in response to a post from Mr Braithwaite’s partner. He made no comment to police questions during interview.

Boydell had convictions, mainly as a youth, for aggravated vehicle taking, threatening behaviour, assault and, most recently, for possessing drugs. Peter Moulson KC, mitigating, said that Boydell did not intend to kill Mr Braithwaite and he indicated a guilty plea at the first hearing before Hull Crown Court on May 27.

Hull Crown Court heard Boydell posted a ‘laughing emoji’ on a Facebook tribute to his victim

‘There was no significant degree of planning or premeditation,’ said Mr Moulson. ‘This was an act of retaliation, albeit in the heat of the moment.’

Boydell had one conviction for violence in 2015. His mother contacted the police at his request after the incident involving Mr Braithwaite.

The laughing emoji was posted when Boydell did not know the extent of the injuries but it was an ‘isolated’ incident of its type and he bitterly regretted it. He had written a letter of apology.

‘He wishes to reiterate that apology and is determined by the remorse that he feels to become a better person in the future,’ said Mr Moulson. Boydell was a good father to his child and to the child of his partner from a previous relationship. There was a very different side to his character and there were references for him.

In custody, he was a mentor, he was on a drug-free wing and he hoped, if possible in the future, to become a counsellor and support worker. Judge John Thackray KC said: ‘Reece Braithwaite was adored by many and his life was precious and priceless to his family members and friends. Their lives have been shattered and they will never recover from the devastation that you have caused.’

Judge Thackray said that he was satisfied that Boydell did not intend to kill Mr Braithwaite but the laughing emoji that he sent while the victim was ‘critically ill in hospital’ made it difficult to believe that he was truly remorseful.

In a tribute, Mr Braithwaite’s mother, Dawn Clasper said: ‘Reece is the youngest of my children and has always been the baby of the family. Since he has died, I feel I have lost all the joy in my life.

‘I know life will never be the same again. I wake up in the morning and he is the first thing that comes into my head. It then hits me he has gone and I have to pull myself together and put on a brave face and try to hold it together for the family.

‘I feel like everything has gone. I have no emotion, just sadness. I avoid contact with family and friends because I find it exhausting trying to put on a brave face and pretend I am coping.

‘I am always the strong one who keeps it together for the family but there are times when I feel like I am going mad with it all. I think about the way Reece died and I just feel an overwhelming sadness about what a waste of a life.’

She told the court: ‘I don’t think I have accepted he is dead. When I am alone, it just goes round and round in my head. I think about when they switched off his life support and we sat and waited for him to die.

‘It felt so surreal, I didn’t really think it was going to happen. I clung onto everything they said, which was positive thinking to myself, ‘He’s not going to die’ and yet he has and we, as a family, now have to learn to live without him.

‘I am sure we can’t. I don’t think we can ever fill the hole he has left. He was larger than life, so loud, so fast, everything at full pelt. He was never still or quiet, an impossible hole to fill.

‘When I found out that the person who drove the car at Reece that day had pleaded guilty, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. I think, if no one had ever been held responsible for my son’s death, it would have broken me.

‘And yet it changes nothing. It doesn’t bring Reece back. It won’t make life without him any easier for me or Reece’s brothers, his children or his family and friends. We are just left empty and sad.’

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