A businessman convicted of “cold-bloodedly” murdering two men to avoid paying a £400,000 debt has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 40 years.
Will Henry, 31, and Brian McIntosh, 29, were found shot dead in a Range Rover after police were called to a car park at the Albion Works off Moor Street in Brierley Hill, Dudley, West Midlands, on September 30 2020.
Jurors at Birmingham Crown Court deliberated over two days before convicting 33-year-old Jonathan Houseman, formerly of Quarry Park Road, Stourbridge, West Midlands, of murdering both victims, returning verdicts on August 6.
Co-defendant Richard Avery, of no fixed address, was cleared of murder but convicted of perverting the course of justice.
The 34-year-old, of previously good character, was jailed for two-and-a-half years.
Passing sentence at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday, Mr Justice Martin Spencer told Houseman, who had no previous convictions: “It was only you in the back of the car, who shot those two men, without warning, cold-bloodedly, in what was effectively an execution.
“Wherever it was Brian and Will were headed, they never got there.
“As Brian turned the car and started to move forward, you shot them both in head, the bullets passing through their brains, causing instant death.”
Houseman initially got out of the vehicle, he said, and then briefly returned to turn off the engine, lights and windscreen wipers, “before you made your escape, walking back to your car”.
He added that Houseman then drove to Avery’s car wash near the Merry Hill shopping centre and “set about trying to cover your tracks with the assistance of Richard Avery”, to whom he gave the gun.
The judge declined to hand Houseman a rare whole-life term, after he “lured” the men to their deaths, saying: “I considered you carried out these offences as an act of desperation”, adding: “You saw no other way out of the financial predicament you had got yourself into.”
Turning to Avery, Mr Justice Spencer described his offences as a “a forlorn attempt to assist Jonathan Houseman in avoiding justice”.
Mr McIntosh was shot four times in the left side of his face and neck, and Mr Henry was shot twice.
The trial heard that Houseman had previous dealings with the victims, who worked together in waste clearance.
Houseman, who also worked in waste disposal, had a site in Halesowen containing about 1,000 tons of waste, which he had hired Mr McIntosh and Mr Henry to clear.
Michael Burrow QC, prosecuting, told the jury: “However, he didn’t pay them for the work they did.”
The murder weapon has never been recovered and is thought to be in “criminal circulation”.
Tanya Hassan, Mr McIntosh’s fiancee and mother of his two sons, aged nine and three, said the youngsters have lost their “hero and protector”.
“He has been cruelly and viciously taken from them.”
Miss Hassan said her children have had to “learn the world is a nasty place and that there is pure evil that walks among us”, adding that Houseman had been invited into the family’s home as a guest.
She said and Mr McIntosh had been due to be married this year, after the pandemic delayed their nuptials, adding: “Now I will never get to experience one of the best days of my life.”
She described Mr McIntosh as a hard worker, at the heart of his community, mentoring at his local boxing gym – as did Mr Henry – and helping pay for the funerals of two locals, whose families could not afford the bills.
“My family is now a broken one,” she said.
His mother, Tina McIntosh, said: “Our son Brian was a gentle giant with a lion’s heart of gold.”
She added: “Unless you are a parent that has lost a child, you have no idea of the pain we feel.”
Mr Henry’s partner, Denni Ullah, said: “On September 30, my life was destroyed – my partner and protector was ripped away from me.”
Mr Henry, who was also a stepfather, was killed when she was four months pregnant with their first child, a girl.
Ms Ullah said: “I had to continue the remaining five months alone, completely broken whilst mourning my dead partner – I gave birth, attended scans and will raise our daughter alone.”
“She has been robbed of an amazing father,” she said, adding: “She will never know him.”
Mr Henry’s brother, Christopher, broke down in tears as he said his brother’s death had left their mother heartbroken and that, on Christmas Day morning in 2020, she suffered a fatal heart attack, aged 61, while on a family walk.
Mr Henry said: “We truly believe our mother’s death was caused by the pain and grief she bore over the murder and death of her son.”
He added: “The violent nature of his passing does not fill well with the life he lived – cut down in the prime of his life.”