Teen who lied to police about death of Warwick pensioner jailed after breaching his order

William Heathcote.
William Heathcote.

One of the teenagers who gave police a false story to cover up for a young man accused of the manslaughter of Warwick pensioner William Heathcote has ended up behind bars.

Stephan Reilly (19) formerly of Willes Road, Leamington, had denied conspiring to pervert the course of justice over the circumstances of 75-year-old Mr Heathcote’s death.

But he and another youth were convicted following a trial at Warwick Crown Court.

And in December they were both given six-month sentences suspended for 18 months, with 12 months supervision, and ordered to do 210 hours of unpaid work.

Reilly, now of no fixed address, was subsequently given an additional three months’ supervision for breaching the order by committing an offence of handling stolen goods.

And prosecutor Ian Speed told the court that since then, Reilly had breached the order again by failing to comply with the unpaid work and failing to comply with the supervision.

Philip Hands, defending, said: “This young man has had a difficult lifestyle. He’s had to sofa-surf recently. His family have severed ties with him, and he has been living with a friend in Scarborough.”

He said there was an element of Reilly ‘burying his head in the sand’ over the order, and he had intended to ask for it to be moved to North Yorkshire, but had not got round to it.

“He found out about this hearing because he contacted the probation office, and they told him he was due in court today for a breach.”

Asking the judge to allow the order to continue, Mr Hands argued: “This is a young man who needs help rather than a short stay in custody.”

But ordering Reilly to serve four months of the suspended sentence, Judge Andrew Lockhart QC told him: “You committed what was a serious offence.

“You conspired with others to protect them from being implicated in the death of William Heathcote.

“In January you were homeless, and your unpaid work was suspended, and your probation officer did everything he could to seek to engage you.

“In April you committed an offence of handling stolen goods, and you had breached your order by committing that offence.

“Thereafter, you failed to attend any appointments. The court cannot countenance the disobedience of a court order. I am going to activate this sentence, but reduce it to four months.”

During the original hearing the court was told that in November 2014 Steven Jones, who was with a group of teenagers including Reilly, had banged on the window of Mr Heathcote’s home in Pickard Street, Warwick.

The pensioner came out in his bare feet in a state of annoyance, holding a broom him and shouting at Jones to go away.

He began swinging at Jones, who just laughed as the broom caught his arm and then ran back to his younger friends.

Then as Mr Heathcote, known as Bill, turned to go back inside, he suffered a heart attack and collapsed.

Jones and his friends remained at the scene, and after one of them called for an ambulance Mr Heathcote was rushed to hospital but was declared dead at 9.35 that evening.

But, to help Jones cover up his involvement, the young woman who made the call told a story of a group of hooded youths having banged on the window and then run away.

And that account was maintained by her, Jones, Reilly and others over the next few days, until eventually the truth of what had happened emerged.

In fact Jones, now 25, who is from Warwick but of no fixed address, was cleared of Mr Heathcote’s manslaughter in March after the Court of Appeal upheld Judge Richard Griffith-Jones’s ruling that there was no case to answer on the charge.

But he was jailed for a total of 26 months for conspiring to pervert the court of justice and taking revenge on a witness.