Man must serve minimum of 22 years for killing student boyfriend
A man who killed his sleeping student boyfriend while in a rage after discovering messages from other men on his phone today received a life sentence, with a minimum of 22 years behind bars.
It follows the conviction of Aaron Ray for the murder of Jason Brockbanks in the deceased’s student flat in the Mansion Tyne accommodation block in Newcastle, in the early hours of September 24, last year.
Ray, 21, of Mayfield Road, South Hylton, Sunderland, denied murder, but was found guilty on a unanimous jury verdict after a seven-day trial at Newcastle Crown Court, on Tuesday (March 21).
He claimed he grabbed a knife and acted in self-defence when Mr Brockbanks attacked him after he was confronted about the messages on his phone.
Read more: Aaron Ray to be sentenced for murder of Jason Brockbanks, on Thursday
But, passing sentence today (Thursday, March 23), the judge, Mr Justice Martin Spencer, said the interviewing detectives and the trial jury saw through his, “web of lies”.
He said Ray had shown a history of, “alcoholism, jealousy and possessiveness”, in previous relationships, and, when he discovered past boyfriends had been unfaithful, he displayed, “uncontrollable anger”, and in some cases acted violently.
The judge said that although there may not have been, “a significant degree of pre-planning or pre-meditation”, he was satisfied that as Mr Brockbanks was asleep on his bed, Ray went through his phone, as he had done previously with past boyfriends.
On discovering messages from other men on the gay dating app Grindr he went to the communal kitchen area, took a large knife and used it to first slash the sleeping victim on the back before plunging it forcibly through the duvet into his side, to a depth of about 10cm.
He said Ray then washed the blood from the knife, returned it to the kitchen drawer, gathered his belongings and left, walking from the flat listening to music on his head phones, as it he, “didn’t have a care in the world”.
Ray took a taxi to his parents’ home in Sunderland and then messaged a friend saying: “I’m in trouble”.
The judge told him: “You showed no remorse for your actions and, in particular, didn’t call the emergency services for help for Jason, who was bleeding profusely.”
Mr Justice Spencer referred to the evidence of the pathologist in the case, saying: “The position was, potentially retrievable if you had summoned help. But you did not.”
The court heard the day before his arrest, following the discovery of Mr Brockbanks’ body slumped in his shower cubicle more than three days later, Ray had looked up on the internet: “Can schizophrenics be murderers?”
The judge said after reading a psychiatric report on Ray: “You are not a schizophrenic, but you are a murderer.”
He went on: “You are deceitful, dishonest and, when drunk, highly dangerous.
“Any remorse has been forced and motivated only by your self-interest.
“In reality there has been no shadow of remorse on your behalf.”
Read more: Jury out: Sunderland man Aaron Ray denies murder of Jason Brockbanks
The judge also noted the defendant’s only previous criminal offence was for animal cruelty, for which he was convicted, in June 2020.
It was for cutting the throat of his family’s pet cockatiel, for which he received a suspended prison sentence.
Mr Justice Spencer also praised and sympathised the family of the deceased, from Whitehaven in Cumbria, who were in court throughout the trial.
A victim impact statement was read to the court by Christopher Brockbanks, the father of the deceased, who turned 24 only nine days before he was killed.
Mr Brockbanks, accompanied by his wife Nicola as he addressed the court, spoke of the huge loss which had impacted on the lives of the wider family, leaving, “a void that will never be filled.”
He described his son as, “a kind and gentle soul who shied away from confrontation and hated violence”.
Mr Brockbanks said: “He had a huge heart and a passion for life.
"He was a young and talented man with so many dreams to realise.”
Mr Brockbanks said their lives will never be the same again, and their son’s loss has affected them both psychologically and physically.
He said they would never be able to accept the manner of their son’s “brutal” death by a man who has, “never shown remorse” and who could have summoned help as Jason lay bleeding to death, unable to find his phone, which was last used by his killer.
Deceased's family speak out after conviction of son's killer Aaron Ray
Aaron Ray police interview during trial for murder of Jason Brockbanks
Student Jason Brockbanks died in Newcastle flat from knife wound
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Imposing the mandatory life sentence, the judge said the minimum term Ray would serve behind bars would be 22 years before being eligible for early release by the Parole Board.
But he will remain subject to licence conditions for the rest of his life.
The judge also commended the police team who investigated the case to bring Mr Brockbanks’ killer to justice, including the lead officer, Detective Sergeant Stephen Ross, for whom it was the first murder inquiry he had led.