The family of murdered ambulance worker Sheldon Flanighan spoke of the “unimaginable grief” inflicted on them by his killer, Toby Kelly, following his conviction for murder today (Thursday November 9).

Speaking after the jury at Newcastle Crown Court returned unanimous guilty verdicts for both the murder of Mr Flanighan, but also the attempted murder of his friend, Wayne Common, the deceased’s sister, Julia, spoke on behalf of the “utterly shattered” family.

Kelly, 38, of Wansbeck Avenue, Blyth, deliberately drove at and over Mr Flanighan and Mr Common in the car park of the Bay Horse pub, in Cramlington, shortly after 10pm on Saturday April 1 this year.

The pair, both aged 55 at the time, were concerned that Kelly appeared unfit to drive due to his apparently heavily intoxicated state and because of the way he had treated his girlfriend, Shannon Wooden, who he had dragged out of the pub.

The Northern Echo:

Mr Flanighan was declared dead at the scene by ambulance paramedics trying to save him, who recognised him as a colleague.

Although Mr Common survived he suffered long-term serious injuries and has endured psychological harm in the aftermath of the tragic loss of his friend.

An investigation was launched by Northumbria Police’s Major Investigation Team (MIT) and specialist officers were deployed to help support the men’s families.

Kelly was arrested and charged with Mr Flanighan’s murder and with the attempted murder of Mr Common.

Friends of Kelly, who were with him in the pub and in the van, 28-year-old Miss Wooden, also of Blyth, and David Fairclough, 32, of Newbiggin-by-Sea, were also arrested and charged but the case against them both was later dropped, and no further action was taken.

Following today’s conviction, Kelly was remanded in custody and will be sentenced at the court, on Wednesday next week (November 15).

Mr Flanighan’s sister, Julia, speaking on behalf of the family, said they have been “utterly shattered” by his loss.

“Since the horror of his death, we have been stricken by acute grief, pain, and suffering beyond comprehension.

“We are heartbroken.

 “The impact of Sheldon's death on our family is difficult to put into words.

“His sons have been deeply affected by the loss of their father.

“They miss him terribly and have been struggling to come to terms with his sudden absence. 

“My sister and I are utterly broken.

“We grew up with Sheldon, our younger brother, and expected to grow old with him too.

“The thought of losing a sibling is unimaginable to so many people, but as Sheldon’s sisters, his absence is a painstaking reality that we wake up to every day.

“Sheldon’s parents have been suffering severe ill health since his death.

“It is just as unimaginable for a parent to outlive their child. The grief and pain have been, and will forever continue to be, unbearable for them.

“The grief of losing Sheldon has further been compounded by the legal process that we have been made to endure.

“The trial has lasted five torturous weeks during which we have had to repeatedly relive the horror of Sheldon's death, over and over again. 

“Hearing every painful detail of his last moments has been excruciating for us to comprehend and deal with as a family.

“However, the defendant has never shown any remorse or acknowledgment of guilt.

“He has only ever acted to preserve himself, and his partial guilty plea halfway through the trial only caused us further anguish.

“The atrocity that was committed by this defendant is beyond any comprehension.

“The jury has now given their verdicts, finding him guilty of murder and attempted murder.

“In that regard, I would like to state that, even after a sentence in prison, he will eventually be released back into society.

“After serving his term, the defendant will return to his life.

“Sheldon will never return to his. Our family will never truly heal.”

She thanked Northumbria Police and the Crown Prosecution team for their, “diligence, thoroughness, and painstaking hard work”, ensuring that Mr Flanighan’s killer, “did not evade justice.

“We trust that Sheldon has found eternal rest.

“He will be remembered in our hearts forever, and we hope to be reunited with him when our times come to pass.

“We also dare to pray that no other family will be forced to endure our experience.”

Speaking after the trial the senior Investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Dave Johnson, of Northumbria Police, praised Mr Flanighan’s family for its strength.

He said: “This has been the most incredibly difficult year for Wayne and Sheldon’s loved ones as they continue to grieve, and I am pleased that the jury returned the right verdict today. 

“Kelly’s actions were despicable and there was absolutely no need for Sheldon to lose his life, or for Wayne to sustain the serious injuries he did.

“This pointless violence has caused so much pain and I hope that today offers a sense of closure to the families, and to the wider community, who I know have been deeply affected by this.

“I have no idea what was going through Kelly’s mind when he made the decision to get in his van and use it as a weapon.

“Nothing good will ever come from a situation like that and as we’ve sadly seen in this case, there was nothing but tragic consequences for all involved.

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“I hope the courts recognise the severity of Kelly’s offending because his violence, anger and disregard for life mean he is not suitable to live in our communities.

“I would once again like to thank Sheldon’s family and Wayne and his family, for their cooperation and support during this difficult investigation.

“I also extend my thanks to the wider team at Northumbria Police who have helped ensure Kelly is brought to justice for his actions.”