Robert Johnston – known here in Co Donegal by his middle name Derek – has been jailed for life in England.
The two sons he recruited for a “mission to murder” a business associate have also been jailed for life.
He and his sons Ben, 27, and Tom, 25, along with colleague Shaun Matthews, 56, travelled to the home of Shaleem Amar, a father of three, intent on killing him with lump hammers.
All four were found guilty of murdering the 33-year-old after cornering him in the kitchen of his rented luxury home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, and beating him. Amar was struck at least seven times while covering his face and head in self-defence, the court was told.
Police stopped the men in a van on the afternoon of 17 November last year, and found Amar in the back. He was in a rubble bag, covered with sand.
The court heard that the men planned to bury Amar in a large hole that Matthews had dug in a 10-acre field, but were stopped by police before they could do so.
Amar was bleeding profusely from a wound to his head when he was found, some time after police stopped the van. He was pronounced dead at the roadside despite the efforts of paramedics and a passing off-duty nurse.
The Johnstons and Matthews had denied murder but were found guilty by a jury following a six-week trial.
Judge Zoe Smith gave each of the four men a life sentence. Johnston senior will serve a minimum of 28 years, with Ben Johnston given a minimum sentence of 25 years and his younger brother 20. Matthews will serve at least 25 years before he is eligible for parole.
The Johnstons, all from Pampisford, Cambridgeshire, and Matthews, from Whittlesford, Cambridgeshire, did not react as they were sentenced.
Shortly after the crime was committed, Amar’s wife – who was living nearby at the time – arrived at Tresanton, her husband’s rented home. She unwittingly walked past the van in which her husband lay wounded, a fact which she said tortured her every day.
Amar and the Johnstons were involved in a multimillion-pound fraud and the motive for the murder was greed, the prosecutor Noel Lucas QC said. The fraudulent business claimed VAT on goods it “sold” that did not actually exist.
Lucas said the way Amar was killed could be “likened to torture” and added that for Johnston senior, the matter was made worse by “the fact that he took his two sons with him on a mission to murder”.
The judge told Ben Johnston as she sentenced him: “Your character witnesses have described you as a man who is non-violent, but it must therefore have been out of loyalty to your father that you were involved in such a deadly plan.”
She also noted that Tom Johnston could be described as a “secondary party” to the murder.
However sources close to his dad Derek told donegaldaily.com that he was “completely innocent.”
The source said: “Derek has threatened to kill himself rather than stay in jail for the next 28 years. It means he will almost certainly die in prison.
“He is sticking to his story; he did kill Amar but it was in self defence after he pulled out a gun.”
CAPTION: Robert Johnston, known as Derek, aged 57, (top left) and his two sons Ben, aged 27 (top right) and Tom, aged 25, (bottom left), all of Town Lane, Pampisford, Cambridge, along with a fourth man Shaun Matthews, aged 56, (bottom right), of Duxford Road, Whittlesford, Cambridge, were found guilty of Mr Amar’s murder following a six-week trial at Reading Crown Court.
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