Three thugs who doused a vulnerable man in petrol and left him to burn alive in a ‘brutal, horrendous and violent’ attack during a drugs turf war have been jailed for a total of almost 60 years.
Connah Jenkinson, 26, John O’Brien, 33, and Joseph McEwan, 20, carried out the horrific assault and killed Robert Beattie as part of an ongoing feud between gangs.
The 48-year-old drug dealer was at his flat in Waverley in Skelmersdale, Lancashire, when he received a knock on his front door at around 1am on September 25, 2019.
When he answered a group of men barged into his flat and doused him and his apartment in petrol before lighting him on fire and fleeing the scene.
When Robert Beattie answered the door of his flat in Waverley in Skelmersdale, Lancashire, a group of men barged in and doused him and his apartment in petrol before lighting him on fire and fleeing the scene
Shocking images show the charred remains of his apartment following the attack which left Mr Beattie with ‘extensive and widespread burns’ which he could not survive.
Mr Beattie sustained serious injuries and was rushed to Whiston Hospital but sadly died from his injuries two weeks later.
Police believe the assault was due to a feud between gangs trying to ‘instil fear and command their dominance’ in the drugs supply trade in Skelmersdale.
Mr Beattie, and others in Skelmersdale, had become victims in County line drug dealing, buying and dealing drugs on behalf of a group known as the ‘Nathan Line’.
This angered the leaders of the rival Merseyside-based ‘Ronnie and Reggie’ line and led to them attending Skelmersdale on the evening of Sep 25.
Video footage released by police today shows the gang pulling up to a petrol station in a van before using one of the pumps to fill up a container hidden behind the passenger-side door of the vehicle.
There had been another deliberate fire at 11pm the same evening at a property on Willow Hey in Skelmersdale where the occupants there had also started buying and selling drugs for the ‘Nathan’ line.
Petrol was poured through the letter box and onto the front door which was then set alight.
The occupants luckily managed to escape the premises without injury and contact the emergency services.
DCI Pauline Stables said: ‘Robert Beattie was a vulnerable man who was the victim of a brutal, horrendous and violent attack which caused extensive and widespread burns.
Shocking images show the charred remains of his apartment following the attack which left Mr Beattie with ‘extensive and widespread burns’ which he could not survive
Video footage released by police today shows the gang pulling up to a petrol station in a van before using one of the pumps to fill up a container hidden behind the passenger-side door of the vehicle
‘His injuries were not survivable and resulted, tragically, in his death two weeks later. It is hard to think of a more horrific way to die and my thoughts today are foremost with his loved ones.
‘The men convicted of this brutal murder travelled to Skelmersdale to carry out these offences with a complete disregard for human life and in an effort to intimidate and instil fear in our local vulnerable communities and establish a foothold dealing drugs.
‘This terrible incident is testament to the fear, misery and devastation travelling drug dealing gangs or ‘County lines’ can cause to the local community.
‘Two of the group responsible for the attack have yet to be identified and I would urge anyone with information to report it to Lancashire Police.’
Connah Jenkinson, 26, of Kremlin Close, Liverpool was found guilty of murder and arson with intent and was sentenced to life with a minimum of 30 years.
John O’Brien, 33, of Ingrave Road, Liverpool was also found guilty of manslaughter and arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered. He was sentenced to 15 years.
Joseph McEwan, 20, of Damsire Close, Liverpool was found guilty of manslaughter and arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered. He was sentenced to 13 years.
Paul Hart, 34, from Skelmersdale was acquitted of murder and arson with intent and John Farrimond, 48, also from Skelmersdale was acquitted of arson with intent.
Police have now launched a desperate appeal to identify two additional men who were involved in the attack and would appeal to anyone who has information to come forward.
An extensive police investigation showed the Liverpool gang had travelled from Merseyside to Skelmersdale in O’Brien’s Citroen van with a distinctive feature of a teddy strapped to the front radiator grill which was captured on CCTV.
Connah Jenkinson, left, 26, of Kremlin Close, Liverpool was found guilty of murder and arson with intent and was sentenced to life with a minimum of 30 years. John O’Brien, right, 33, of Ingrave Road, Liverpool was also found guilty of manslaughter and arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered. He was sentenced to 15 years
Joseph McEwan, 20, of Damsire Close, Liverpool was found guilty of manslaughter and arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered. He was sentenced to 13 years
Police enquiries also showed the mobile phone numbers ascribed to the R&R line, Jenkinson and McEwan showed they were all in use in Liverpool before the attacks, travelled to and from Skelmersdale on the day of the attacks and subsequently became untraceable in the days following.
But O’Brien’s Citroen van was never seen again after September 27.
Mr Beattie’s family said their ‘hearts are truly broken and will never be the same’ in a heartfelt tribute.
The tribute read: ‘No family expects a loved one to be taken under circumstances like this.
‘You always hear about these types of disturbing attacks happening to other families and we don’t think anyone can fully understand the heartbreak, trauma and long term impacts a situation like this can cause unless they experience it first-hand.
‘Nothing can prepare you for such a trauma and life will never be the same again. Our grieving as a family has only just started and it is even more difficult knowing that some of those responsible for this inhumane attack on bobby are still walking free.
‘Bobby meant a lot to many people who knew him. He was an uncle, great uncle, cousin, nephew, brother in law and a friend to many, but most importantly he was our big brother.
‘Having lost both of our parents and another oldest brother, he remained the oldest member of our immediate family and we still looked up to him.
‘Bobby had been dependent on drugs for many years and for this reason he was vulnerable. He was not a bad person and anyone who knew him will tell you this.
‘He was always kind to others; he would offer food to his friends to make sure that they did not go without.
‘Whenever bobby saw his younger nieces and nephews, he would spend time with them at the park or take them the shop for sweets.
‘He loved to spend time playing and entertaining them.
‘To them he was just their uncle Bobby, someone who would make them laugh and they often looked forward to seeing him.
‘His older nieces and nephews have many fond memories from their childhood, of which they will treasure forever, now are irreplaceable as new memories cannot be made.
‘Our hearts are truly broken and will never be the same again because of the traumatic circumstances in which he was taken from our lives.
‘Our hopes and dreams for the future together have come to a halt. We cannot celebrate his 50th Birthday in March, instead we will be laying flowers at the cemetery.
‘As a family we will miss seeing his cheeky smile and hearing his laughter. We will miss seeing him interact with the younger family members and his unplanned visits.
‘We will miss the opportunity to make new memories. We will deeply miss our Bobby.
‘No sentence imposed can ever reflect the heart ache and pain these individuals have inflicted upon our family. As a family we will never come to terms with our loss.
‘We can only hope that he is now with our Mum and Dad, catching up with his favourite people and keeping an eye on those left behind.’
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