Heroin addict who murdered friend with crossbow in revenge attack jailed

A drugged-up serial offender who murdered his friend with a crossbow has been jailed for life.

David Ball fired the lethal weapon into the abdomen of Lee Atkins on May 6 this year.

As he struggled to breath and in agony from the catastrophic injuries, Mr Atkins called 999 and was taken to Aintree Hospital for emergency surgery.

Despite the best efforts of doctors, the dad-of-one was pronounced dead later that day.

When Ball was arrested he said: “I lost my temper and snapped. When I lose my temper, I get this strength and I don’t know where it comes from.”

The day before the brutal killing Ball and Mr Atkins joined mutual friend Kevin Riley for a day of drinking and taking drugs in Bootle, Merseyside.

After shoplifting food to sell in a bid to buy drugs, they headed to the town's station to catch a train to Formby where they planned to go camping.

They arrived at the station after midnight and missed the last train, prompting Ball to break into a white Sherpa van and hot-wire it.

Shortly after they set off Ball crashed the car twice, prompting Mr Atkins to get out fearing for his life.

The trio met up at Mr Riley's home at 2am where a fight broke out between father-of-one Mr Atkins and Ball over the latter's driving.

The host's attempts to split the pair saw him dragged into a fight with Mr Atkins, the scrap spilling out into the road.

As they fought, Ball went up into Mr Riley's loft and grabbed a crossbow he had stored there.

The 50-year-old then came downstairs and unloaded the weapon.

“He took it outside and as Riley watched in horror, he fired a shot into the abdomen of Lee Atkins," said Richard Pratt QC, prosecuting at Liverpool Crown Court.

"The bolt penetrated deeply into the abdomen and caused extensive internal bleeding."

A 999 call was played to the court in which the victim could be heard struggling to breathe and in agony from his catastrophic internal injuries.

Paramedics arrived and Mr Atkins was taken to Aintree Hospital where emergency surgery was performed, but he was pronounced dead later that morning.

Sentencing an emotionless Ball – who has committed 115 previous offences – Judge Neil Flewitt outlined the impact Mr Atkin's death had had on his family.

He said the victim had lived with his dementia-suffering grandmother, but following his death she has had to move in with her daughter.

The judge claimed Ball had brought “sorrow and a sense of emptiness no family should ever have to endure.

"You are responsible for that loss and you have shown not the slightest remorse for your actions.

“Throughout your trial you behaved selfishly and with complete disregard for the feelings of others.”

He said his contempt for the court was in stark contrast to the dignity of the victim’s family during the proceedings.

“I am also sure that you aimed the crossbow at Lee Atkins, removed the safety catch and fired, intending at the very least to cause him really serious harm," Judge Flewitt said.

During the two week trial Ball, of Brookhill Close, Bootle, claimed the death had been caused accidentally.

Nicholas Johnson, QC, defending, said that there had been no intention to kill and “he had been subjected to significant violence in the immediate time before he took what proved to be a very bad decision.”

The jury, some of whom returned for the sentencing hearing, had cleared Ball of robbery and affray, which allegedly involved him being armed with the crossbow, two weeks before the murder.

The court heard he had also twice threatened others with the weapon.

Ball must serve a minimum of 27 years before he can apply for parole.

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