A violent thug who beat a friend with a wine bottle and a walking stick has been branded a coward as he was jailed for life for the brutal murder.

Dean James Williams became enraged when Ian MacNeil refused to share his heroin with him and launched a vicious assault on the 46-year-old.

The 50-year-old refused to attend court to learn his fate as he was locked up for a minimum of 16 years following the fatal attack on November 28, 2021.

Judge Paul Watson KC, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, called the murderer coercive and manipulative as he lambasted him for trying to persuade a witness to point the finger of blame at another man.

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“You have chosen not to attend the last few days of the trial, providing the court with excuses because the reality is that you do not want to attend because you cannot face the consequences of what you did.

“Your failure to attend court is illustrative of the sort of manipulative, coercive and cowardly character that you are. You don’t even have the courage to face the court today to hear your sentence.”

The Northern Echo: Dean WilliamsDean Williams (Image: CLEVELAND POLICE)

Dealing with the violence, he said: “You punched him repeatedly in the face and continued to demand money for drugs or drugs.

“At some point you had picked up an empty bottle of wine – first you threatened him with it but eventually, with him continuing to hold his ground, you hit him about the body with it.

“He suffered two fractures to his ribs which were consistent with being hit with a bottle.”

The judge said other people in the flat on Southfield Road, Middlesbrough, tried to intervene but this only inflamed the defendant’s anger.

“You then picked up a shooting stick and it is clear that you then used that to hit Mr MacNeil over the head and there is little doubt that the lacerations to his head had been caused by that.”

The court heard how Williams tried to clean up his victim in a bout of ‘self-preservation’ before the serious injured man left the flat and was later found slumped in a doorway.

Mr MacNeil was taken to hospital and treated for a bleed on the brain and a punctured lung before dying 12 days later.

Judge Watson continued: “You maintained throughout the trial that you had never laid a hand on Mr MacNeil, he was a friend of yours and you had had no disagreements.

“It was the injuries that you caused that led to Mr MacNeil’s death. You tried to manipulate these proceedings whilst you were in prison and there was a gross attempt to persuade Mr Puckrin, who was in prison at the same time as you, to get him to change his testimony and implicate someone else.”

The Northern Echo: Ian MacNeilIan MacNeil (Image: Cleveland Police)

Mr MacNeil’s mother told the court of the impact her son’s death had had on the family. She said: “He wasn’t violent. He was a loving, caring son and very much a part of our family. He was kind-hearted, he was not aggressive and just wanted to live a quiet life.

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“It’s hard for me to put into words the impact his death has had. To have him taken through violence at the hands of another, I don’t think I’ll ever come to terms with that.”

Jamie Hill KC, prosecuting, said Williams was also to be sentenced for defecating in a police cell and wiping the excrement all over the walls as well as his own body and face following his arrest for an unrelated matter several weeks earlier.

He said the defendant had also caused £8,000 worth of damage to the roof of the probation service office in Middlesbrough when he climbed up and started ripping tiles off and throwing them at passersby while swigging from a bottle of vodka.

Judge Watson sentenced Williams to life in prison and told him he must serve at least 16 years in custody before he is eligible for parole.