The family of a “kind and peaceful” student who was murdered by four men who beat him then threw him off a balcony say his death has left a void in their lives.
Four men were convicted of murdering Bill Henham, 24, who was savagely beaten, and thrown to his death from a balcony during a New Year’s Eve party at a squat.
Mr Henham was knocked unconscious and dropped around 11ft into a courtyard by the men.
He suffered around 60 wounds after being brutally beaten, kicked, stamped on and hit with a wooden bannister spindle.
After being thrown off the balcony, Mr Henham was stripped and covered in bleach in a bid to cover up evidence of the killing.
But Dushane Meikle, 28, Gregory Hawley, 29, Lamech Gordon-Carew, 20, and Alize Spence, 18, were convicted of killing Mr Henham following a three-month trial.
Student had more than 60 injuries
A post-mortem examination revealed the student had been beaten unconscious and suffered multiple injuries, including a brain haemorrhage, eleven rib fractures, extensive cuts and bruising to the scalp, face, and neck - consistent with being punched, kicked and stamped on.
He had been beaten and dropped off a balcony during a party at a disused four-storey former office block with a bar and restaurant, which was being used as a squat during the early hours of 1 January, 2020.
Police were called by worried neighbours the next day and discovered Mr Henham’s body in a recessed courtyard, accessed from a flat roof terrace at the back of the building.
His father gave him a lift to the seaside city and dropped him off near the centre on the evening of New Year’s Eve.
CCTV showed the 24-year-old leaving a nightclub on the seafront, before the final sighting of him at 4.30am on New Year’s Day in a corner shop near the squat where he was attacked.
The student who went to Ravensbourne University in London, was killed within a few hours of going to the party.
He suffered “a sustained and significant” assault that left him with over 60 injuries including multiple broken ribs and a brain injury.
The attack started on the second floor of the building before the victim was dragged to a small room measuring no more than 13ft by 6ft on the first-floor for the beating to continue.
Mr Henham was then dropped over railings at the edge of a flat roof terrace, into a recessed courtyard some 11ft below.
Attackers tried to cover up the crime
His attackers stripped him of his clothes and doused his body in disinfectant to wash it in a bid to cover up the crime.
But areas of diluted blood-staining in the building showed the lengths the killers went to clear up after the brutal attack.
After a tip-off from a witness at the party, cops arrested four men and a 16-year-old boy over the death.
One of those arrested - Gregory Hawley - described as ‘in charge of the squat’, was said to have laughed and joked about the attack and allegedly confessed to stripping Bill’s body and dousing him in bleach.
Hawley was also seen a few hours later with a bleach bottle and cloth just a few feet from the same room where Mr Henham was assaulted.
Others involved were also said to have carried on boasting about the attack once they moved to a second squat nearby to carry on the party.
CCTV from outside a corner shop showed Bill swaying as he rolled a cigarette, before eventually wandering towards the entrance of the disused building.
Another of the men - Dushane Meikle - was later found to have two deleted photos of Bill’s body - on his mobile phone.
A witness also picked out three of the suspects Hawley, Lamech Gordon-Carew and Meikle, in police ID parades.
One arrested man was released without further action, leaving four defendants to face the murder charge.
‘He was a kind and peaceful young man; a free spirit’
Prosecutor James Mulholland QC told the court that although the motive for Bill’s murder remained “unclear”, all four men either participated in the physical attack or deliberately helped or encouraged one or more of the others to do so.
After the conviction, Mr Henham’s family said in a statement: “Bill, our son and Rory’s brother, was cruelly and coldly taken from us.
“It is hard to describe the horror of losing a family member to murder, especially in such a brutal and needless way. We cannot fathom as to why anyone would inflict such cruelty on someone so helpless.
“In the weeks before his death, Bill had been living with us at home whilst taking a break from his studies at Ravensbourne University in London, where he studied digital film production. His love of art, films and film-making has left us with many examples of his creativity.
“He was a kind and peaceful young man; a free spirit who happily chatted to those he came across.
“We can well imagine, in his impaired and vulnerable condition that night, he was drawn towards the squat party and went into the North Street building not understanding the danger he was putting himself in.”
His family went on to say they were left with a “Bill-shaped void” in their lives following his killing.
The statement added: “In CCTV pictures we’ve seen of him, across the road from the squat, it hurts not to be able to make him hear our cries, warning him not to go in.
“These past two years have been hard for us and others, and we are very grateful for all of the kindness we have been shown, especially in what has been such a challenging few years for many.
“The events of that night have left us with a Bill-shaped void in our lives. We’ll strive not to cry too often, but instead smile when we remember his short life, especially because he shared it with us.”
Convicted men will spend ‘many years’ in prison
Detective Superintendent Alex Geldart said yesterday (Thurs): “I, and the whole investigation team, feel privileged to have brought justice for Bill and his family, whose strength, dignity and fortitude throughout the investigation and trial has been truly humbling.
“Bill was just enjoying celebrating the New Year when his life was brutally brought to an end.
“Since his tragic murder, we have never given up hope that we would finally hold those responsible to account.
“This has been a lengthy and complex investigation involving a huge number of enquiries and forensic work to bring this case to court, resulting in the convictions today for this senseless killing.
“The four convicted men will now face many years in prison and we hope Bill’s family will be able to find some closure, knowing that his killers are finally behind bars.”
All four defendants will be sentenced at the same court at a date to be set.
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