30 May 2024

Man sentenced to fours years in jail for fatal stabbing of good Samaritan

12:23 pm on 30 May 2024
Bailey Ecclestone, 22, in the dock at the High Court in Hamilton.

Bailey Ecclestone, 22, in the dock at the High Court in Hamilton. Photo: RNZ / Natalie Akoorie

A young autistic man who fatally stabbed a good Samaritan in the neck as he tried to intervene in a fight, will spend the next four years in jail.

But the family of the victim say Bailey Phillip Jakob Ecclestone should never have been living in a home for people with intellectual disabilities, where the deadly assault took place.

Ecclestone was 20 and living in the Hamilton Community Living Trust home with four other flatmates when an argument about a messy kitchen became heated, the High Court at Hamilton heard on Thursday.

According to the Crown summary of facts, Ecclestone was playing Playstation in his bedroom when another resident, Joseph Pitcaithly, confronted him about making a mess in the kitchen and getting a knife stuck down the sink.

A loud and heated argument ensued and insults were traded before Pitcaithly picked up a plate from the floor and threw it at Ecclestone.

In response Ecclestone picked up a serrated knife and threatened to cut Pitcaithly's neck open.

Pitcaithly responded by telling Ecclestone to "go ahead and do it", the court heard.

At that moment Matthew Williams, who was visiting a friend at the house, ran upstairs and tried to stop the pair fighting by standing between them to diffuse the situation.

But Ecclestone swung the knife over Williams and stabbed Pitcaithly in the shoulder.

He then swung it again and stabbed Williams to the right side of his neck causing a 7cm deep wound which injured the right subclavian artery and vein.

Williams put his hands over his neck and retreated downstairs but he was bleeding profusely.

He asked for an ambulance and collapsed, his friends trying to staunch the flow of blood.

Ecclestone locked himself in his bedroom and waited for police.

Williams underwent emergency surgery at Waikato Hospital but suffered several strokes and was declared brain dead two days later.

Regina Edminstin outside court after Bailey Ecclestone was sentenced to less than five years’ jail for her brother’s manslaughter.

Regina Edminstin outside court after Bailey Ecclestone was sentenced to less than five years’ jail for her brother’s manslaughter. Photo: RNZ / Natalie Akoorie

Williams' sister Regina Edminstin described how her little brother "Mattie" died a hero but instead he should have been around to enjoy his 31st birthday this week.

Through tears she told the court Williams was meant to be on holiday and celebrating the successful completion of his studies to become a chef.

"Instead, on the day of his graduation, we were attending his funeral."

She said Williams was a prankster and the funniest person she knew, and his death had had a profound impact on her.

"Having to contact my mother to inform her what happened to Mattie was one of the most traumatic things I've ever done in my life."

She now suffered from post-traumatic stress, took medication daily and underwent ongoing counselling.

The victim impact statements of other family members including Williams' mother described how broken they were and how much they missed their son, brother, uncle, cousin and nephew.

More than 10 family members packed the gallery and at times cried.

Ecclestone was charged with murder and wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter the day before his trial was due to start in April.

In a letter to the families of his victims, read to the court, Ecclestone said: "I want to apologise for the loss and hurt I have caused you all".

"I never wanted to this to happen. Everything got out of control and for that I'm sorry."

Justice Gerard van Bohemen said Ecclestone, now 22, was raised by his aunt in a happy household from the age of two after his mother was unable to care for him properly.

But after a chance meeting with his mother at the age of 10, Ecclestone became confused as to why contact with her was so limited. He also had little contact with his father.

Ecclestone suffered bullying at school, ostracized as "the weird kid" and by 14 his behaviour meant Oranga Tamariki took over responsibility for his care.

At 15 he was excluded from school for anti-social behaviour and considered a risk to other students.

In 2017 he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the following year with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Ironically, he also had aspirations of becoming a chef but as a result of his social and emotional deficits, he had few friends and poor social understanding.

A psychological report found Ecclestone used provocative actions and violence to attract attention but that he did not have an intellectual disability.

He was also a heavy drinker and smoked cannabis and took other substances.

Justice van Bohemen set a starting point of imprisonment of six and a half years, a term both the Crown and defence agreed with.

He gave discounts for Ecclestone's autism, upbringing, remorse, guilty plea and youth, totalling 35 percent.

The judge sentenced Ecclestone to four years and 10 months for the manslaughter and three years and three months for the grievous bodily harm, to be served concurrently.

Outside court, Edminstin said four years was not going to bring back her brother.

"It's unjust. We have an unjust system and it's not fair. I think he needs to be rehabilitated and the system has obviously let him down as a child and that's why we're here today."

She said Ecclestone should not have been living in the house and pointed to six months of issues with him prior to Williams' death.

"That guy should have been in a ward. He wasn't well. They all knew that."  

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