A man who killed a golf greenkeeper after hitting him on the head with a metal horseshoe has been jailed for murder.
Kirkpatrick Virgo, 42, was sentenced to 21 years and 123 days behind bars at Reading Crown Court on Friday (31 March) for murdering Thomas Parker, 24.
Mr Virgo hit the 24-year-old with a horseshoe after the pair argued over loud music blasting from a boombox speaker on a train.
In court on Wednesday, Mr Vigro, from Slough, admitted manslaughter and carrying an offensive weapon, but denied murder. The jury later returned a guilty verdict following almost four hours of deliberations.
The row began when Mr Parker’s brother Craig Parker, 27, told one of Mr Virgo’s friends to turn the music down on the train at about 11pm on 30 July last year. Mr Parker was travelling home from watching an Arsenal game with his brother and two friends.
The two groups shouted at each other before the altercation was ended by off-duty police officers. Despite officers splitting the groups into different parts of the train carriage, Mr Virgo’s group moved back towards Mr Parker’s, which showed they were “intent on carrying on the confrontation”, the jury was told. One witness claimed Mr Virgo was “psyched up” and had an “air of menace” which left them unnerved.
Mr Virgo then followed the Parker brothers when the train arrived at Reading station. During his evidence, Craig Parker told how he went to be sick behind a pillar as soon as the train arrived at Reading Station, saying he felt ill from a McDonald’s milkshake he had consumed on the train.
He said: “Once I vomited I felt Tom looking over me, making sure I was all right. Then it happened, so quickly, Tom was on the floor in front of me.”
The court heard that Mr Virgo had followed the group and then removed a heavy metallic horseshoe from his rucksack which he used to hit Thomas Parker in the head. The attack was caught on CCTV meaning Mr Virgo had “no choice” but to admit unlawfully killing Mr Parker.
Prosecutor Tahir Khan KC told the court: “We say the defendant was upset about the earlier argument. He was intent on doing some serious damage to one or another of the victim’s group.
“The defendant followed after Tom Parker and he brought the heavy weapon down on the back of Tom Parker’s head. Tom Parker fell straight to the floor and sadly he did not get back up. He was fatally wounded by a single blade.”
After hitting Mr Parker, the 42-year-old attempted to run away but was caught by the victim’s brother. Craig Parker told the court that he pursued Mr Virgo through the station as he did not want to let him get away. He said: “I was in a bear hug, grappling, just holding (him), I did not want to let him go.”
After Mr Virgo was detained, Mr Parker heard someone tell him that he needed to go back to his brother. He said: “I heard someone say ‘you best come down now’”, before finding his brother surrounded by paramedics.
Despite the efforts of emergency services, Thomas Parker was sadly pronounced dead at 12.40am on 31 July 2022. The court was told that Mr Parker died as a result of a subarachnoid haemorrhage after he was hit, meaning fragile blood vessels near his brain had burst and he had gone into cardiac arrest.
Consultant forensic pathologist Robert Chapman, who performed the post-mortem examination, told the court: “One to 2% of cases I deal with have this sort of injury. I would expect to see this type of injury about once a year or slightly less than that.”
The victim’s father Steven Parker described how “everything went black” as he saw his son lying on the platform at Reading station. He said: “Tom had a lovely personality and always had a smile on his face. He was very clever and had lots of friends, Tom did not have a bad bone in his body. I would describe him as a lover not a fighter.
“I received a phone call from our son Craig. Every parent’s worst nightmare was about to unfold in front of us. Craig told us, ‘You need to get to Reading station, Tom has been attacked’.”
Mr Parker said he was unable to comfort his son or hug him because of the crime scene unveiling in front of him when he arrived at the station, adding: “We approached in fear, hoping in our hearts we would be able to take Tom home with us, or at least take him to hospital where he could receive medical treatment. We could not be more wrong. We wanted to hug Tom, to take him home, to gently shake him and tell him to wake up. To tell him everything will be OK.”
He described his son as being like a brother, and added that Craig had “not only lost his brother but also his closest friend”. The father told the court that his family now find it too painful to use Reading station and admitted he is scared of what could happen every time a family member leaves the house.
The court heard that Mr Virgo was a father of four and had five previous convictions for crimes such as drink-driving, and on another occasion he was found with crack cocaine and heroin.