Man jailed for unprovoked attack on group of friends at Mangravet recreation ground near Maidstone

An unprovoked attack on a group of friends by a thug, who left one of them with lifelong scars to his face after striking him with a torch, ended only when he was hit on the head with a bottle of rum.

James Appleby found “Dutch courage” and grabbed the bottle of Captain Morgan, hitting the robber with it before chasing him away from the Mangravet recreation ground near Maidstone.

William Saunders has been locked up. Picture: Kent Police
William Saunders has been locked up. Picture: Kent Police

Now William Saunders, of Camp Way, Maidstone, has been given an extended jail sentence.

Judge Charles Gratwicke jailed him for five years and three months’ and placed him on licence for three years after Saunders admitted two robberies, attempted robbery and having an offensive weapon.

It was Saunders’ fourth conviction for robbery and the judge told him: “Anyone who listened to what happened couldn’t help but be horrified and revolted by this behaviour which cannot and will not be tolerated.”

Maidstone Crown Court heard how Saunders, 35, and a pal were walking their dogs in July this year as they passed the group, appearing at first to be friendly.

But the drunken yob then returned about 10 or 20 minutes later and had turned aggressive, the court was told.

One of the entrances to Mangravet Recreation Ground, off Camp Way. Picture: Google Street View
One of the entrances to Mangravet Recreation Ground, off Camp Way. Picture: Google Street View

Prosecutor Irkshad Sheikh said Saunders went up to Andre Fremlin, 20, and “without provocation” kicked him in the face three times.

He then turned to James Appleby, kicking him twice to the chin – before demanding the incident be filmed on a mobile phone by Saunders’ pal.

“Saunders was carrying a heavy duty torch which he shone in the faces of the victims demanding alcohol and money,” said Mr Sheikh.

“He was calling all of the group n***** and Mr Appleby gave him £2, which was all he had. He then started pacing up and down as the group sat down threatening to hurt them if they got up.”

The court heard how he then ordered 21-year-old Steven Pearce to call his mother and demand £100 – and frogmarched the frightened victim to his garden gate, after warning the other two that if they moved he would kill them.

‘My behaviour was horrible. I am disgusted in what I did and I shouldn’t have done it…’

“Mr Pearce’s mother and brother saw them and ran back inside out of sheer fear – and called the police,” Mr Sheikh added.

Saunders, who has convictions for robbery and assaults, then began kicking Mr Fremlin again after taking £24 out of his victim’s wallet and laying into him with the torch, cutting his head several times.

“But as he continued the attack, Mr Appleby found Dutch courage and defended his friends, using a bottle of Captain Morgan,” the prosecutor added.

Kitchen porter Mr Fremlin received “lifelong facial scars” and revealed how he now struggles to eat and sleep after the incident.

“I look each day in the mirror and am reminded about what happened,” he said.

He added that he now is thinking about moving away from the area.

John Fitzgerald, defending, said Saunders told him: “My behaviour was horrible. I am disgusted in what I did and I shouldn’t have done it.”

Speaking after the case, DC Toby Hawkins, of Maidstone CID said: “Saunders is a prolific and violent offender who subjected his victims to what must have been a truly terrifying ordeal.

“His actions were entirely unprovoked and left these young men fearing for their lives and with some quite appalling injuries.

“It is only right that Saunders has now received a significant custodial sentence and I hope this will act as a reminder to people that we will simply not tolerate such gratuitous violence within our communities.”

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