A VICIOUS bully kicked his victim to death outside a Bolton chip shop as part of a "spectacle" for associates.

Christopher Walton targeted his victim, dragging him out of the Seven Acres chippy on Winchester Way, demanding cash and punching and kicking him to the ground.

Youths nearby did nothing to stop the attack as Christopher Hardman lay helpless, but consciousness, on the ground. Several minutes after leaving him, Walton returned and in a sickening display of violence, captured by nearby CCTV cameras, repeatedly kicked 45-year-old Mr Hardman in the face.

The victim was rushed to hospital but died from his injuries, which included severe brain damage, fractured jaw, cheekbone and nose, eight days later.
Walton, aged 25, of Tonge Moor Road, Bolton, pleaded guilty to murder and at Minshull Street Crown Court, Judge Anthony Cross QC jailed him for life and ordered that he spend at least 22 years behind bars.

Sentencing him, Judge Cross said: "Anyone who has had to watch the shocking CCTV footage of what you did to the deceased over the course of 10 minutes at about 10.30pm on July 13 would struggle to understand how one human being could descend to the brutal violence that you inflicted on a defenceless man who was doing no more than going to buy some food from his local chip shop."

Tim Storrie QC, prosecuting, told the court how Mr Hardman and his friend Anthony Miller, had gone to the chip shop to buy food but Walton, dressed all in black, was loitering outside the takeaway and, when he saw Mr Hardman, demanded cash, saying, "Where's my 20 bar?"

Mr Miller, realising they were going to be robbed, stayed outside the shop, but Mr Hardman ventured inside, only to be dragged out and punched to the ground by Walton.

Mr Storrie described the attack as a "spectacle" designed by Walton for associates who were present.

As Mr Hardman lay badly injured, but conscious on the ground, Walton rifled through his pockets and forced Mr Miller, who was standing nearby, to hand over his cash.

For several minutes Mr Hardman lay on the grass outside the shop but no one came to his aid before Walton returned and repeatedly kicked his victim to the head.

"After a merciless series of stamps and blows Mr Hardman was left for dead," said Mr Storrie.

"The violence was used when others were nearby in order to provide a spectacle for associates of Christopher Hardman who, during the course of that incident, must have suffered some significant degree of mental and physical injury over a prolonged period of time,"

When police arrived a short time later officers could not make out Mr Hardman's facial features as they were so grotesquely swollen.

In a victim statement Mr Hardman's family described him as someone who had struggled with drink and drugs but had a "warm and lovely heart. He made friends with people easily and was a respectful and police adult".

Mr Hardman, a grandfather, had been born in Bury and brought up in Summerseat and Edenfield, attending Haslingden High School, before moving to Ramsbottom and then, eventually, the former apprentice joiner lived in Bolton after a relationship broke down.

Richard Littler QC, defending, stressed that Walton only had previous convictions as a juvenile and the attack on Mr Hardman was not pre-meditated.

"No doubt the defendant believed, wrongly, that the deceased would pull through," he said.

Judge Cross told Walton that he was satisfied he was committing  robbery and was acting as part of a group of other men, of whom he was the ringleader.

"The violence was, indeed, merciless, it was protracted, lasting for many minutes," he said.

"The extent of the violence was demonstration to others of how violent you could be, so that anyone who saw it would be in fear of you - a vicious bully, returning to your victim from time to time, demonstrating complete control over your victim.

"The deceased would have suffered considerable pain until he was finally rendered unconscious.

“I am not satisfied you intended to kill, but I am satisfied that, such was the brutality of the violence aimed to the head, that the injuries deliberately inflicted were so serious that the risk of death was high."

After the sentencing Duncan Thorpe, Senior Investigating Officer of GMP’s Major incident Support Unit, said: "First and foremost I would like to extend my condolences to Christopher's loved ones who have to deal with the loss and aftermath of Christopher's violent death.  

"This was an incredibly vicious and brutal attack, and has ultimately resulted in a man losing his life. We (GMP) and the public of Greater Manchester will absolutely not tolerate this senseless behaviour.

"Although today's result cannot bring Christopher back, I hope we have been able to bring some justice to his family who are suffering immensely from this loss and gives Walton the time he needs to reflect on the consequences of his despicable actions."