south London man has been jailed for life for the “ferocious” killing of his grandfather in the first televised sentencing to take place at the Old Bailey.
Judge Sarah Munro QC made legal history on Thursday as she handed 25-year-old Ben Oliver a minimum term of 10 years and eight months for manslaughter.
Oliver, from Bexleyheath, was cleared of murder but admitted the manslaughter of 74-year-old David Oliver in Mottingham on January 19 last year.
The court heard how Oliver stabbed his bed bound grandfather in a frenzied attack with a kitchen knife shortly before noon.
His autistic spectrum disorder combined with factors diminished his responsibility for the killing, the court was told.
In 2016, Oliver was convicted of sexual offences against a young girl when he was aged 15 and he was released from youth detention in September 2019.
Judge Munro noted he had loved his grandparents but that turned to hatred towards his grandfather on learning of allegations of sexual abuse against him.
Oliver developed an “obsessional tunnel vision” leading to a determined decision to kill in a “ferocious” way, the judge said.
Judge Sarah Munro
/ PA Archive
Outlining events, the judge told Oliver: “On the 19th the carers came as usual to see to your grandfather’s needs.
“When they had gone your nan took him a biscuit and coffee. That was the last time she saw him alive.
“You were noted to be jittery and couldn’t rest. You asked to lie down with your nan which you did.
“However, when she got up you went downstairs. It was around 11.30-11.45am. You selected a knife from the kitchen and you went to your grandfather’s room.
“You cut his throat repeatedly with severe force, you stabbed his mouth so he could not cry out and his eyes so that he couldn’t look at you as you killed him.
“He tried in vain to protect himself by raising his right arm. He was utterly powerless.
“There were a total of 21 stab wounds to the face, seven to the torso and obvious defence injuries. He died very quickly of massive blood loss.
“Nan called 999 as you sat with her. At one point you went upstairs and sat on the windowsill.
“I am satisfied that you had it in mind to jump to your death but your nan persuaded you to come in and you calmly sat with her until the police arrived.
“You were entirely co-operative. Your nan told police ‘we all wanted to kill him’.”
After weighing up aggravating and mitigating features, the judge told Oliver: “In your case I do consider the seriousness of the offence does justify a life sentence.”
Ben Oliver’s sentencing at the Old Bailey was the first to be televised
/ PA Wire
However, the judge acknowledged Oliver’s guilty plea and expression of remorse when he told a probation officer: “I’ve just made it worse, made the pain greater.”
Earlier in mitigation, Jennifer Dempster QC said: “The word tragic is a word perhaps over used in this building to describe some cases – not so in this particular case.”
She said a series of “deeply unfortunate events” had combined to make an “almost perfect storm” in which the killing happened.
“This is a young man who on a number of levels was woefully let down by those who should have been looking after him,” she said.
The move to broadcast Oliver’s sentencing was announced by the Ministry of Justice on Wednesday and was hailed by broadcasters as a “landmark moment for open justice”.
Under the change in the law, High Court and Senior Circuit judges sitting in crown courts can be filmed delivering their sentencing remarks.
Only the judge will be on camera to protect the privacy of victims, witnesses and jurors.
Speaking after the verdict, Detective Chief Inspector Kate Kieran, who led the investigation, said: “This has been a tragic case that has left a family fractured. My thoughts are with them today.”