The family of a student who was savagely beaten before being thrown to his death say they are “grateful for justice” after the four men who murdered him were jailed for life.
Bill Henham was knocked unconscious and dropped around 11 feet into a courtyard.
The 24-year-old suffered around 60 wounds after being brutally beaten, kicked, stamped on and hit with a wooden bannister spindle.
After being flung off the balcony, Mr Henham’s body 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 that was delayed by Covid and Storm Eunice.
All four were jailed for life and sentenced to a total of 86 years in prison at Hove Crown Court.
Hawley and Meikle were ordered to serve a minimum 25 years, while Gordon-Carew and Spence will serve a minimum 18 years inside.
‘We are so angry for what those men did’
Sentencing Judge, the Honourable Mr Justice John Cavanagh, praised Bill’s family for their “immense dignity and restraint throughout the two-and-a-half year ordeal”.
After the sentencing, Mr Henham’s family said in a statement: “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.
“We are so angry for what these men did and grateful for the justice they will receive.“
“Sadly however, no sentence will give us Bill back and more importantly it won’t give him the chance to make his mark on the world and follow his dreams in a way that we all strive to do.
“Over time, our memories will likely dim and we will forget some of the things he said to us and some of the things he did but we will never forget how he made us feel.”
After his body was found, a post-mortem revealed the student had been beaten unconscious and suffered multiple injuries, including a brain haemorrhage, 11 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.
‘Bill was a kind and gentle young man’
Detective Superintendent Alex Geldart, of Sussex Police, said: “Bill was a kind and gentle young man; out enjoying the New Year celebrations when his life was brutally brought to an end.
“We never gave up hope that we would finally hold to account those responsible for Bill’s murder.
“We conducted a lengthy and complex investigation involving a huge number of enquiries and forensic work to bring this case to court.
“Today’s sentencing of the four men convicted of Bill’s murder is a reflection of the senseless and tragic loss of life.
“They 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.”
Mr Henham spent Christmas with his family in Henfield, West Sussex, but wanted to see in the New Year in a “lively” atmosphere in the nearby party town of Brighton, East Sussex.
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.
Bill suffered ‘sustained and significant’ attack
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 south east 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.
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 arrested men - Dushane Meikle - was later found to have two deleted photos of Bill’s body - one partially clothed and one naked - on his mobile phone.
Motive for murder remained ‘unclear’
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.
All pleaded not guilty but after a trial at Maidstone Crown Court, all were found guilty by a jury of the murder.
Prosecutor James Mulholland QC told the court during the trial 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.
Mr Henham’s family said in a statement released after the defendant’s convictions in February described the horror of losing Mr Henham in such a brutal way.
It read: “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.
“He was a kind and peaceful young man; a free spirit who happily chatted to those he came across.
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.”