A 15-year-old boy has been found guilty of murdering an innocent shopper knifed to death after challenging the youth for messing about in a supermarket’s toilets.
Jurors unanimously convicted the youngster on Wednesday after hearing how 53-year-old Ian Kirwan was knifed in the heart by the youngster – then aged 14 – who was part of a masked group of youths who “terrorised” members of the public in Redditch.
Mr Kirwan, described by his wife as a “wonderful person” with “the biggest heart”, had popped to B&Q to buy a light switch before going to Asda to use a toilet.
Following the jury’s decision, Mr Justice Fraser told the teenage killer, who was not in court but attended from custody via video-link, he faces the “youth equivalent of a life sentence”.
He adjourned proceedings until February 15.
Turning to Mr Kirwan’s wife and family, who were sat in court for the verdicts, Mr Justice Fraser said: “The court is well aware none of this process can bring him back or reduce the impact of his loss on all of your lives.”
Last March 8, the murderer, from Birmingham, travelled with four other boys by train to the Worcestershire town, where Mr Kirwan was victim of a minute-long attack near the entrance of Asda.
Jurors cleared three of the other youths – two aged 14 and one 16 – of murder and manslaughter but found them guilty of violent disorder.
A fifth boy, 16, was acquitted of murder, manslaughter and violent disorder after saying he was not involved in the deadly confrontation and could not have predicted it.
A 10-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court was told Mr Kirwan, an artificial intelligence engineer at Jaguar Land Rover’s Coventry headquarters, was an “unfortunate member of the public in the wrong place at the wrong time”.
Opening the trial in early November 2022, Benjamin Aina KC told jurors when Mr Kirwan went to the Asda customer toilets “he came into contact with a group of five young males who were messing about”.
“He left the Asda store and some of the boys were outside and he challenged them. ‘Why were you messing about in the toilets?’ Words to that effect,” he said.
“A scuffle broke out and, during that scuffle, Ian Kirwan was stabbed once to his heart with a knife and he died before getting to hospital.”
There was no dispute the then-14-year-old was the one to stab Mr Kirwan.
But the boy later claimed to be suffering from mental disorders which “impaired” his ability to form rational judgements.
Before the attack, the youths misbehaved on the train, throwing rubbish and causing other passengers to move seats.
During the trip, one of the teenagers – since convicted of violent disorder – took a knife from a bag in front of the others.
Another, a 16-year-old convicted of disorder, gave a knife to the boy who stabbed Mr Kirwan.
That youth, then 15, pleaded guilty to having a knife before the trial.
Outside court, Detective Superintendent Leighton Harding of West Mercia Police read a statement from Mr Kirwan’s wife as she and her loved ones stood nearby.
In it, she praised her husband as “a big kid; a wonderful person who was full of love, kindness, and generosity”.
“I really miss him in my life. I miss his ways that would drive me crazy but he always made me and our family and friends happy and there was never a day that we wouldn’t laugh when he was with us,” she said.
“Ian would always make us feel protected, secure and safe.
“Ian was the better half in our relationship. He gave people chances (and) was a fountain of knowledge.”
“Ian would have helped anyone, even someone who had done him wrong. He had the biggest heart,” she added.
She said the stabbing did not just take her husband’s life, “it also took my life, my plans for the future and has an impact on all my choices”.
Mr Kirwan’s wife said “he died alone, surrounded by strangers who were kind enough to help him”.
Describing him as her “rock” and “soulmate”, she said: “Ian didn’t deserve to die. He still had so much to live for.”
Mr Harding said: “This was an appalling attack on an innocent man going about his daily life, which caused shock and upset in the local community.”
Thanking the public for identifying witnesses who ended up being “crucial” to bringing the killer to justice, Mr Harding added: “Today’s convictions send a clear message that we will take swift action against anyone who carries a knife or engages in violence.”
The youths will be sentenced on February 15.