In the Media

Man jailed for killing friend in 1987

PUBLISHED January 26, 2012

Mark Masefield contacted police in 2011 and admitted to killing Anthony Pryke nearly 25 years ago during a drunken row

A 43-year-old man has been jailed for 11-and-a-half years for manslaughter after he killed his best friend with a scaffolding pole more than 20 years ago and pushed his body into a drain.

Mark Masefield was sentenced after he confessed to killing his friend Anthony Pryke whose badly decomposed remains were discovered in a sewerage drain in December 1987 ? four months after his family reported him missing from his home in Chelmsley Wood, Solihull. Masefield contacted police in the West Midlands in July last year and admitted killing his friend.

At an earlier hearing, Masefield admitted manslaughter. On Thursday, Birmingham crown court heard that 17-year-old Pryke was struck with the metal pole at his home in August 1987 after they became embroiled in a drunken row.

Prosecutor Graham Reeds QC said Masefield, who was 19 at the time, then pushed his friend's body head-first into the drain and kept his crime a secret until last year, when he confessed to a friend and later to officers from West Midlands police.

The court heard that, in the intervening years, many people had suspected Anthony's brother David was guilty of the killing. He was arrested in 1987 on suspicion of murder and later released without charge.

A coroner recorded an open verdict in 1988 as it was thought that Pryke may have been overcome by fumes from the drains. The victim's body had been cremated, and exhibits, witness statements and notes from the original police investigation were destroyed in a flood in the early 1990s.

Passing sentence, Judge William Davis QC told Masefield: "It is only now that you have had the courage or decency to admit what you did. You disposed of his body in the most appalling way, with a total lack of respect for him and for his memory.

"You must have known the anguish you were causing to his family. You must have known the effect it was causing to David Pryke. But year upon year ? you did nothing."

The judge dismissed mitigation that keeping the crime a secret for decades had "traumatised" the defendant, telling him: "The fact that a killer is traumatised by the fact that he has killed is, in my judgment, of no consequence at all."

Members of the victim's family wept as the sentence was handed down.

In a victim impact statement read to the court, David Pryke said: "I have always bottled this up and it has mentally killed me. It has completely ground me down for nearly 25 years and at times I have not been a very nice person.

"Even after Anthony's body was found, he [Masefield] still didn't come forward. He never cleared my name and has let everybody believe that I killed my own brother."

David Pryke, who was in the front row of the packed public gallery, held his head in his hands and sobbed loudly. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds