South Yorkshire man claims voices told him to attack

Christopher Rooney, 48, of Auckland Road, Mexborough.
Christopher Rooney, 48, of Auckland Road, Mexborough.

An alcoholic beat his former flatmate to death because of threats from the ‘voices in his head’, a court heard.

John Sowden, aged 44, carried out a deadly assault on Christopher Rooney in the early hours of Sunday, September 2, last year at Mr Rooney’s home in Auckland Road, Mexborough, near Rotherham.

Sowden, of Elm Road, Mexborough, smashed a panel in Mr Rooney’s front door before punching, kicking and stamping on him.

Neighbours reported hearing banging and shouting at around 10.30pm on the Saturday, and one neighbour saw Sowden walking along Auckland Road at around 3.30am on the Sunday.

Mr Rooney’s body was not found until 1.30pm, when friend Melvin Clarke – who told Sheffield Crown Court he was ‘concerned for Chris’ welfare’ because of previous abuse from Sowden – called round to check on how Mr Rooney was.

Pathology reports showed Mr Rooney had suffered extensive bruising, a fractured nose, jaw and ribs, a lacerated liver and a traumatic brain injury.

His ear was partially detached.

Sowden was arrested by police in the early hours of Sunday for being drunk and disorderly, having tried to set fire to a newsagent’s shop and clashing with police in Mexborough.

He was initially released – but then arrested again later in the day and charged with murder.

Sowden admitted knowing Mr Rooney, with whom he had become friends because they both had alcohol problems, and said he had stayed at his house on four occasions. But he denied being at the property that weekend or assaulting him.

Sowden later admitted manslaughter – but denies murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Prosecutor Simon Waley told the jury Sowden claimed to suffer from alcohol dependency syndrome which means he cannot control the urge to drink.

“The defendant said he heard voices threatening to harm him, and at the time of the killing he was hearing these voices,” said Mr Waley.

The court also heard evidence from Mr Clarke, who described the moment he found Mr Rooney’s body.

“I had to force the door open because Chris’ body was behind it,” he said. “I felt for a pulse but he was cold. I told the paramedics on the phone that he was beyond help.”

The trial continues.