Two men have been jailed for a total of 32 years for causing the death of Luton man Henry Huggins.
Mr Huggins, 49, died on 10 June 2015 after spending almost two years in a coma following an assault by Stuart Docherty and James Early.
Docherty and Early, both 43 from Whipperly Ring, Luton, attacked Mr Huggins outside his home address on 8 August 2013. Early punched him to the ground in a dispute over his dog’s behaviour, before Docherty stamped on his head – causing catastrophic brain damage.
Both men were originally sentenced after being convicted of assaulting Mr Huggins but his death triggered a re-trial, and they have now been re-sentenced after Early was found guilty of manslaughter and Docherty was found guilty of murder earlier this month.
Docherty was serving a 17 year sentence in relation to the assault after being convicted originally of grievous bodily harm. This sentence has been replaced with a life sentence, with a minimum 24 years.
Early had previously served a two and a half year sentence after he was convicted of actual bodily harm. He received an eight year sentence today of which he will serve five and a half years as a result of his previous jail term.
Detective Inspector Fraser Wylie, from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit, who led the investigation into the attack following Mr Huggins’ death, said: “This was an absolutely abhorrent attack which robbed a family of their son, brother, dad, and granddad. Because of the actions of these two individuals, Henry’s grandchildren will grow up without him.
“Despite already having gone through the agony of two years with their loved one in a coma, Henry’s family were forced to undergo more trauma after Docherty and Early refused to accept responsibility for his death.
“They were found guilty and have now been made to pay the price for their violence and sickening actions on that fateful day back in 2013. Although this can never made up for the loss of Henry, I hope this brings his family and friends some sense of justice and closure and allows them to begin the process of moving on with their lives.
Excerpt from the victim personal statement written by Mary Huggins - one of Henry’s sisters
My heart breaks every day without him. There will always be seven of us as l still speak of Henry as if he is still here in our lives. He is here in my heart always. He has a part of my heart that can never be filled or mended.
He was a face never forgotten. A man who was known everywhere he walked attracting many as a magnet, all walks of life.
Henry, you were many things to me and the family. These are a few words that come to mind: non- judgemental, loving, thoughtful, trusting, loyal, and patient - these are a few words of the qualities you shared with us all.
Statement issued on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS
Kirsty Allman, Senior Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: “This case involved the untimely death of 49-year-old Henry Huggins in Luton in June 2015.
“At about 5.30pm on Thursday, 8 August 2013, in the vicinity of Whipperly Ring flats in Luton, against a background of animosity, racial abuse and threats to kill, Henry was attacked by James Early and Stewart Docherty. He was punched three times to the face by Early, which caused him to fall backwards and hit his head on the concrete floor rendering him unconscious. While unconscious on the ground, Docherty jumped on Henry’s head with both feet, kicked him to the head and stole his jewellery. Henry suffered catastrophic brain damage and was left in a persistent vegetative state and in a care home until his death on 10 June 2015.
“On 19 September 2014, Docherty pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, and theft. He was sentenced on 14 November 2014, to 12 years imprisonment with an extended sentence of an additional 5 years. On 15 October 2014, Early was convicted, by a jury, of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and was sentenced on 14 November 2014, to 30 months imprisonment.
“Both Early and Docherty were jointly responsible for Henry’s death. Each contributed to the causing of the serious brain injury that, eventually, led to Henry’s death and this was proven by expert medical evidence. At Luton Crown Court on Thursday, 15 June 2017, Docherty and Early were found guilty, by a jury, of murder and manslaughter respectively, following a 9-day trial, despite their denials.
“This case represents a tragedy for Henry’s family and friends, who have been devastated by his appalling injuries and his subsequent death. I cannot praise Henry’s family enough; they have remained dignified and courageous throughout the lengthy investigation, and two trials, despite the unimaginable nightmare they have endured.
“We have worked closely with the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit since this investigation was launched, sought consent from the Attorney General to prosecute, as Docherty and Early had already been convicted of offences arising out of the same incident, and as a result of the hard work and diligence of the prosecution team, a just outcome has been achieved. We know that nothing will bring Henry back to his family and friends, but we hope that the convictions and today’s sentences bring them at least a small sense that justice has been done. Our thoughts are very much with them all at this time.”