FOUR men who beat up a “gentle and peaceful” student and threw him to his death from a balcony have been jailed for life.
Bill Henham was knocked unconscious, stripped, doused in bleach, and dropped around 11ft into a courtyard by thugs he met at a New Year’s Eve party in Brighton.
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 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 him following a three-month trial that was delayed by Covid and Storm Eunice.
At Hove Crown Court yesterday, all four were jailed for life and sentenced to a total of 86 years in prison.
Hawley and Meikle were ordered to serve a minimum 25 years, while Gordon-Carew and Spence will serve a minimum 18 years inside.
The 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”.
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.”
After his body was found, a post-mortem examination revealed the student had a brain haemorrhage, eleven 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.
It was being used as a squat during the early hours of January 1, 2020.
Police were called by worried neighbours the next day and discovered Mr Henham’s body in a recessed courtyard.
Detective Superintendent Alex Geldart of Sussex Police said yesterday: “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.
“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 Brighton.
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.
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, was killed within a few hours of going to the party.
The attack started on the second floor of the building before the victim was dragged to a small room 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 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.
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.
He 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.
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 phone.
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.”
A family statement read: “Bill, our son and Rory’s brother, was cruelly and coldly taken from us.
“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.
“In the weeks before his death, Bill had been living with us at home whilst taking a break from his studies at Ravensbourne University in London, where he studied digital film production. His love of art, films and film-making has left us with many examples of his creativity.
“He was a kind and peaceful young man; a free spirit who happily chatted to those he came across.”