10 April 2015
By Neil Docking
A badger-baiter who murdered a dad-of-two in a hit and run attack after an argument over a hunting dog was jailed for life with a minimum of 17 years.
Michael Haigh, 25, admitted being the driver of a Jeep Cherokee which struck Ryan Kennedy and crushed him into a wall in Gable View, Norris Green.
But he claimed he hit his 24-year-old best friend by accident when trying to “scare him” after “banter”.
Haigh, of Buttermere Crescent, Rainford, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but was found guilty of murder after an eight-day trial at Liverpool Crown Court.
Judge Clement Goldstone, QC, said he left his friend to die in a pile of rubble and then went on the run for eight days while trying to cover his tracks.
He said: “It was your case that you had driven towards him intending to do no more than frighten him and that this was in the context of normal banter between you.
“After you had crushed him, you reversed and sped away from the scene without summoning any assistance and lay low for a week, knowing that he had died.
“It was your case that you had done so because you were in a state of shock at what you had done, taking the life of the man who you said was your best friend and to you like a brother. The truth of the situation is rather different.”
Pair had been jailed for badger-baiting
Mr Kennedy and another man called Reece Welsh had been jailed for badger-baiting in June 2014 and banned for life from owning, keeping or transporting dogs.
Judge Goldstone said Haigh and Welsh arrived at Mr Kennedy’s parents’ house at around 2pm on November 1 last year with a seriously injured and scarred dog, asking him for the number of a “bent or tame vet” who would not report them to the police, but he could or would not.
Judge Goldstone said: “You were very angry and lost your temper. You said something to him by way of a threat, which prompted him to say to you and your passenger, a fellow badger-baiter, that he wasn’t scared of you.
“That inflamed you even more and you decided to teach him a lesson, so you deliberately drove into him.
“You may not have intended to kill him, but nor did you care one way or the other whether he lived.
“You abandoned him in his greatest hour of need but not as you said because you were in a state of shock or panic but because you wanted to cover your tracks.
“Had he been like a brother to you, no amount of shock or panic would have prevented you either stopping there and then to help him, calling the emergency services or by assisting the police. Your behaviour in the aftermath of the collision was as cowardly as it was callous.”
Paramedics rushed Mr Kennedy to Aintree Hospital, but he could not be saved.
His injuries included multiple broken ribs, bruising to the heart, cuts to his internal organs and a dislocated left shoulder.
Haigh then took steps to conceal his mobile phone and the Jeep, which have never been found.
Nigel Power, QC, prosecuting, read from a statement prepared by Mr Kennedy’s family in which they said they had “lost everything”.
They said: “Our lives have been changed forever. Things will never be the same without Ryan. Ryan’s two beautiful children have had their daddy taken away from them.”
They said Haigh had tried to embellish that he was Mr Kennedy’s best friend when “he was an occasional friend and no more”.
The family said: “Ryan did nothing wrong and did not deserve to die in the callous and cowardly way that he did.
“We will never forgive Michael Haigh for taking away our precious son.”
The court heard Haigh had previous convictions for assault causing actual bodily harm, possessing a weapon and intimidating a witness when still at school in 2005.
He was also a burglar and twice guilty of battery.
Ian Unsworth, QC, defending said he wished to express his “deep sorrow” and was remorseful.
But the court heard he had sent a letter to the mother of Mr Kennedy’s partner that had caused great offence.
Judge Goldstone said: “It was a cynical effort to paint you as a man who would never have done anything intentionally to hurt Ryan Kennedy.
“It was a ploy through which the jury saw. You have left Ryan Kennedy’s family without a loving son, brother, partner and father.”
Haigh blew kisses to his family, who shouted “stay strong kid” and “keep your chin up” as he was led down from the dock.
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