Introduction and Facts
In March 2016 Aaron Barley was a homeless man who was sleeping in a box outside a supermarket Stourbridge. He met Tracey Wilkinson, who was by all accounts a compassionate woman, and who tried to help him.
She took him to the council, to see if she could help him get accommodation and managed to get him a place in a hostel. Although that was commendable in itself, Ms Wilkinson went further, arranging for breakfast and supper for Mr Barley every day. Sometimes this would be at the house that Ms Wilkinson shared with her husband, Peter Wilkinson and their children Lydia (19) and Pierce (13), sometimes it would be elsewhere.
Mr Wilkinson gave Mr Barley a chance at employment – a labouring job. All seemed to be going well.
Sadly, in September 2016, for reasons unknown, things started to unravel for Mr Barley. He resumed taking drugs and lost his job, before drifting out of the Wilkinson’s lives.
Six weeks or so later, Mr Wilkinson left his home and found Mr Barley asleep in the front drive. He gave him a cup of tea and over the next few months took him into their lives again, helping him find accommodation and giving him some odd jobs to do around the house. He even spent Christmas Day with them.
When Mr Barley found a full time job in the New Year, he would still come round every week or so for a meal.
Then, on 30th March 2017, something happened. Mr Wilkinson went to walk the dog in the morning, and when he returned, he found the house strangely quiet. When he went in the back door, Mr Barley jumped on him and attacked him, stabbing him six times saying ‘die, you bastard‘. He had already attacked Mrs Wilkinson, killing her, and Pierce, who he had left fatally wounded.
Mr Barley then left, stealing Mr Wilkinson’s car. There followed a car chase after which Mr Barley was arrested.
Mr Wilkinson was close to death, but fortunately, after several weeks in intensive care, survived.
The reasons for Mr Barley doing what he did are unclear. After arrest, it seemed that he accepted carrying out the attack, but it was not until the day of trial, 4th October 2017, that he pleaded guilty to murder.
This was because his lawyers had been investigating whether he had a ‘partial defence’ to murder; namely through diminished responsibility. When all the reports were in, and it was confirmed that he did not, the guilty pleas were entered.
The mandatory sentence for murder is life imprisonment, the issue for the judge was what tariff should be set. In this case, the Judge’s sentencing remarks have been published (always a very helpful thing to happen). She sets out clearly what the aggravating and mitigating features were, and how she arrived at the starting point – a tariff of 35 years.
Mr Barley was entitled to full credit for the plea of guilty, the maximum for murder being 5 years. For this reason, the tariff for Mr Barley is 30 years.
There was a really moving article in The Guardian on 3rd October 2017 (after the plea was entered, but before sentence) about the history and impact of the crime on Peter Wilkinson and his daughter. It is certainly worth a read, as it really brings home the circumstances of the murder, and the impact on those left behind when someone is killed.