Three sentenced to life over 'revenge killing'

Three men have been sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiring to murder a married couple in Lincolnshire.

John Stirland, 55 and his wife Joan, 51, were shot dead at their home in Trusthope in August 2004. The killings had been triggered by a murder carried out by Mrs Stirland's son in Nottingham in 2003.

At Birmingham Crown Court on Friday, Mr Justice Treacy ruled that a 39-year-old defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, would have to serve a minimum term of 35 years.

The man hurled abuse at the judge before being removed from the dock.

John Russell, 29, of Northcote Way, Nottingham, was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years and Michael McNee, 21, of no fixed address, was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years.

Five other defendants - Shane Bird, 39, of Carlton Hill, Nottingham; Kevin Holm, 38, of Cliff Road, Carlton; Lanelle Douglas, 20, Andrew McKinnon, 22, both of no fixed address and a 40-year-old who cannot be named for legal reasons - were cleared of the charges.

During the trial, the court heard that the catalyst for the murders was the death of a teenager after the murder of Marvyn Bradshaw by Mrs Stirland's son Michael O'Brien in 2003.

The 18-year-old, who was with Mr Bradshaw on the night he was shot, had been unable to cope after the murder and had turned to drugs, dying of pneumonia a year after the murder took place.

Mr and Mrs Stirland were murdered within a week of the teenager's death. Two men broke into their home, armed with Beretta pistols and shot Mr Stirland six times and his wife four time.

The couple had moved to Trusthope eight months before the murder after their former home in Nottingham had been targeted in a gun attack.

Prosecutor Timothy Spencer QC told the court that the gang's vengeance had been "swift and devastating".

However, the prosecution was unable to establish who had pulled the trigger and admitted that not all the gang members had been traced.

Police said that the investigation into the murder of the Stirlands is still continuing.


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29 June 2006
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22 February 2008
Police Criticised Over Trusthorpe Murders
The police's protection of a couple murdered in a revenge attack, has been criticised in an investigation by an independent watchdog. John and Joan Stirland were found shot dead at their bungalow in the Lincolnshire village of Trusthorpe in 2004, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) found.
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