Judge lifts press no-names order on murder youth

A judge lifted an order which had given anonymity to a 16-year-old youth who joined two young men in kicking and stamping a father-of-three to death after he disturbed the gang burgling his home.

Judge Timothy Pontius said it was in the public interest for the public to know the identity of 16-year-old Gerry Cusden.

The move came on Friday as Judge Pontius gave Cusden, 21-year-old Mark Elliott and 19-year-old Curtis Delima life sentences for the murder of Mark Witherall,.

The trio were convicted at Maidstone Crown Court last month following a nine-week trial.

The judge said at the sentencing hearing the murder had taken place in a “relatively small community” and there was an “understandable local interest in the full details of the offence and those who committed it”.

The jury had heard that Elliott, Delima and Cusden turned on Mr Witherall on January 27 last year when he found them trying to burgle his home in Whitstable, Kent.

Judge Pontius, who said the attackers acted “like a pack of hyenas”, jailed Elliott for a minimum of 23 years, Delima for a minimum of 20 years, and Cusden for at least 16 years.

Witherall suffered massive internal bleeding in the attack, and died of his injuries in hospital on March 7 after spending more than five weeks on a life-support machine.

The jury had heard that the trio had been drinking all day, then went to a party at a friend’s house, which was also attended by Mr Witherall’s partner, Sally George, 47.

They took Ms George’s keys from her handbag when she was not looking, and decided to let themselves into her home to steal any valuables they could find.

But Witherall, who was asleep in the house, woke and chased them out.

As they ran out of the house, Elliott picked up a spirit level and gave it to Delima, who hit Witherall in the face with it, causing him to collapse outside his end-of-terrace home.

The youths then proceeded to kick and stamp on Mr Witherall as he lay on the ground before ransacking the house.

Judge Pontius said the act was a “grave crime” which was made all the worse by the fact that none of the defendants seemed to show any regret for what they had done.

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