Michael Barton, who was involved in the 2005 murder of black teenager Anthony Walker, is set to be released from jail following a recommendation by the Parole Board.
Barton, whose actions were described as “racist thuggery” during his sentencing in 2005, was convicted of the killing of Walker alongside his cousin, Paul Taylor in a park in Huyton, Merseyside.
This is what you need to know.
What did Michael Barton do to Anthony Walker?
On 29 July 2005, Walker, his girlfriend, Louise Thompson, and his cousin, Marcus Binns, walked together to a bus stop in Liverpool at around 11pm.
On their way there, the three encountered Barton, who was aged 17 at the time. Barton hurled racist slurs at Walker and Binns, and so they, along with Thompson, walked to a different bus stop, near McGoldrick Park.
However, Barton, with his cousin Paul Taylor, 20 at the time, followed the three in a car. They drove to the park and ambushed Walker, Thompson and Binns when they arrived.
Binns and Thompson were able to escape the attack and fled to get help, however Walker was severely injured when Taylor hit him in the head with an ice axe. The axe got lodged in Walker’s skull, rendering him brain dead.
Whilst Walker lay unconscious, Barton attempted to retrieve the weapon, however it was stuck in Walker’s head. Later, even the doctors would struggle to remove it.
Barton and Taylor fled the scene, and by the time that Binns had returned with help, there was nothing that could be done for Walker. He was taken to Whiston hospital and then transferred to Walton neurological centre. He died at 5.25am, surrounded by his family, at the age of 18.
On 1 August, the police named Barton and Taylor was suspects in Walker’s murder, however the pair had left the country within hours of the attack. They had driven over 300 miles to Dover and caught a 6am ferry to Calais. From there, they then drove to Amsterdam. Days later, on 3 August, Barton and Taylor arrived at Liverpool John Lennon airport in handcuffs.
In 2006, Walker’s family launched a foundation in his memory, called the Anthony Walker Foundation.
The foundation’s website states: “The Anthony Walker Foundation works to tackle racism, hate crime and discrimination by providing educational opportunities, victim support services and by promoting equity and inclusion for all.”
How long was he sentenced for?
The trial took place between November and December 2005, and on 1 December, Barton and Taylor were both convicted for Walker’s murder.
They were both sentenced for life, with Taylor, who admitted the murder just before the trial, ordered to serve at least 23 years and eight months, and Barton 18 years and eight months.
At the time, sentencing judge Mr Justice Leveson said the pair were guilty of “racist thuggery of a type that is poisonous to any civilised society”.
The judge added that the two cousins had perpetrated a “terrifying ambush” and a “racist attack of a type poisonous to any civilised society”.
Mr Justice Leveson told them: "You took from Anthony Walker his most precious possession, that is to say his life and all it held for him. He was a young man of enormous promise, lost in a moment.
"You have damaged forever the lives of those who loved him. Further, you have destroyed your own lives and affected the lives of all who are dear to you."
Following their sentencing, Walker’s mother, Gee, said outside the court: “Justice is done; it is within the justice system.
“I just hope and pray they use this time to reflect on what they’ve done.”
Barton’s minimum sentence was reduced from 18 years to 17 years after an appeal made to the High Court in 2016, during which a “remarkable transformation” in his outlook and conduct was noted by judges.
Is Michael Barton related to ex footballer Joey Barton?
Barton is the brother of Joey Barton, a former professional football player turned football manager.
Joey played for teams including Manchester City, Newcastle United, Queens Park Rangers, Burnley and Rangers, as well as the England national team. He is currently the manager of League One side Bristol Rovers, having previously managed Fleetwood Town from 2018 to 2021.
Following the attack on Walker, Joey made a public appeal for his brother to come forward and cooperate with the police conducting the investigation.
In a statement to ITV News at the time, Joey said: “My side of the Barton family is sickened by [Walker’s] death. Although I was not brought up with Michael, I urge him to come forward.
“Michael, if you have any information about what happened you have to tell the police.
“You must do this for the Walker family so they can mourn Anthony and because you know it is the right thing to do.”
The court also heard how he also made a series of phone calls to Barton to confront him about the killing.
Is Michael Barton going to be released?
The Parole Board has recommended that Barton be released from jail, according to the decision, which was released on Thursday (22 September).
According to evidence presented at parole hearings, Barton’s initial behaviour behind bars had been poor but he had matured over the previous decade and had been taking part in courses on victim awareness and substance abuse.
He was moved to an open prison in February last year.
The Parole Board decision, released on Thursday, said the reviewing panel could direct release only if it was satisfied that it was no longer necessary for the protection of the public that Barton remained in prison.
The panel concluded: “After considering the circumstances of his offending, the progress made while in custody and the evidence presented at the hearing, the panel was satisfied that Mr Barton was suitable for release.”
His licence conditions include living at a designated address, a curfew, enhanced supervision and monitoring, complying with limitations on contacts and activities and observing an exclusion zone to avoid contact with victims.
It is understood the Ministry of Justice has 21 days to review the Parole Board recommendation on Barton’s release.