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Horrifying moment murderer Ashley Charles snatches bottle from Phillip Sherriff before slashing his throat at Jessie J party

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  • Ashley Charles, 26, from Leicester, was jailed for at least 14 years today at the Old Bailey
  • Prosecutor Duncan Penny said: 'It all happened very quickly, perhaps one second - one second to take a life.'
  • Footage shows the moment Charles grabs the beer bottle he uses to slash the throat of Phillip Sherriff, 37
  • Pair clashed just after midnight while jostling for space at the free bar at the Pulse nightclub in London after Jessie J had finished her performance
  • Partygoers desperately tried to save Phillip Sherriff by using clingfilm to stem the bleeding

By Eleanor Busby

PUBLISHED: 09:48 EST, 9 November 2012 | UPDATED: 20:51 EST, 9 November 2012


Guilty: Graphic designer Ashley Charles

Guilty: Graphic designer Ashley Charles

An art director who slashed the throat of a telecoms boss with a broken bottle at a Jessie J gig has been jailed for life.

Ashley Charles, 26, attacked Philip Sheriff in front of horrified revellers after the 37-year-old made 'some inoffensive joking remarks' about a girl.

The event was sponsored by mobile phone manufacturer BlackBerry, where Mr Sheriff was an executive.

The blow, which was caught on CCTV, severed his carotid artery and jugular vein and caused massive blood loss.

Partygoers desperately tried to save the married father of two by using clingfilm to stem the bleeding, but he died four days later.

Charles denied murder and claimed he had only lashed out with the bottle because he feared Mr Sheriff was going to attack him.

But he was convicted after a two-week trial at the Old Bailey and jailed for life, with a minimum of 14 years.

Mr Sheriff's widow Jane was in court throughout the trial and sobbed and embraced members of her family as the verdict was delivered.

Judge Paul Worsley told Charles: 'You took a life for no better reason than that your victim may have pushed you at a crowded bar and made some inoffensive joking remarks to a girl who was talking to you.

'You destroyed by your actions so much that was good in that family.'

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How it happened: Ashley Charles (in white) can be seen squaring up to Phillip Sherriff at the bar. The victim can be seen holding a beer bottle and talking on his mobile phone

How it happened: Ashley Charles (in white) can be seen squaring up to Phillip Sherriff at the bar. The victim can be seen holding a beer bottle and talking on his mobile phone

Confrontation: Ashley Charles aggressively squares up to Phillip Sherriff, standing right in front of him their faces almost touching

Confrontation: Ashley Charles aggressively squares up to Phillip Sherriff, standing right in front of him their faces almost touching

Hostility: Ashley Charles steps back from Phillip Sherriff and attempts to snatch his phone

Hostility: Ashley Charles steps back from Phillip Sherriff and attempts to snatch his phone

Face off: Ashley Charles steps back and squares up to Phillip Sherriff, who can be seen holding the beer bottle in his left hand

Face off: Ashley Charles steps back and squares up to Phillip Sherriff, who can be seen holding the beer bottle in his left hand

Final moment: Ashley Charles can be seen snatching Phillip Sherriff's beer bottle, which he smashed into his neck seconds later

Final moment: Ashley Charles can be seen snatching Phillip Sherriff's beer bottle, which he smashed into his neck seconds later

VIDEO: Seconds from tragedy... 

Charles, from Leicester, launched his attack shortly after midnight while jostling for space at the event's free bar after Jessie J had finished her performance.

The killer had been talking to a girl and asked Mr Sheriff for some space. He replied: 'She doesn't want to be talking to you. She'd much rather be talking to me, wouldn't you, love?'

After pushing and shoving between the men, Charles grabbed the older man's bottle of beer before swinging it at his neck.

In a statement to the court, Mrs Sheriff, whose children are aged five and eight, addressed Charles directly, saying: 'You took an amazing man away from us so brutally and no one will forget that. I spent four days watching my husband die.

'I was with him when his body turned blue and he took his last breath. I will never forget that.'
Charles, who had no previous arrests or convictions, is a Loughborough University graduate who worked at a design agency.

Judge Worsley said of the bottle: 'It was a lethal weapon. He was a decent man.'

He added Charles had done something 'which was truly out of character'.

Tragedy: Phillip Sherriff was murdered after the Jessie J gig

Tragedy: Phillip Sherriff was murdered after the Jessie J gig

Addressing Charles he added: 'You did not deliberately smash the bottle you used. I am satisfied you did not intend to kill Mr Sherriff and you were immediately remorseful.'

Mrs Sheriff has started a campaign, named Bottlestop, to ban glass bottles from late-night city centre bars in the wake of her husband’s death.

A petition set up in her name attracted the 100,000 signatures necessary to trigger a debate in Parliament just days before Charles’ trial began.

She and her two children, aged five and eight, are still being treated for post-traumatic stress brought on by the death and she has been unable to return to work.

‘The children are wary of me going back because daddy went to work and never came back,’ she added.

Mr Sheriff had travelled from his home in Preston, Lancashire, to attend a party organised by his employers BlackBerry on April 3.

He was due to stay the night at the nearby Holiday Inn Express in Southwark and according to witnesses he was ‘completely in control of himself’ even though he had been drinking.

Charles was working at the Leicester-based Form Studios design agency, where he oversaw the production of websites, print products and phone apps.

Devastating: Phillip Sherriff leaves behind wife Jane (pictured on their wedding day) and their two children aged five and eight

Devastating: Phillip Sherriff leaves behind wife Jane (pictured on their wedding day) and their two children aged five and eight

Devastating loss: Phillip Sherriff's wife Jane addressed his killer directly, saying 'You took an amazing man away from us'

Devastating loss: Phillip Sherriff's wife Jane addressed his killer directly, saying 'You took an amazing man away from us'

Happier times: Phillip Sherriff pictured with his wife Jane, whom he was with for 15 years

Happier times: Phillip Sherriff pictured with his wife Jane, whom he was with for 15 years

He travelled down to London with his brother Callum, 19, from the home they shared in the city with his mother Danni, an NHS nurse, and another younger brother.

Callum had won tickets to the party in a prize draw organised by the handset firm and invited Loughborough University graduate Charles and other friends along.

The group headed to the gig after checking into the Belgravia Rooms Hotel in Victoria, central London.

Experts say the bottle was broken before it hit Mr Sheriff’s neck, possible on a metal stand nearby.

‘Whether or not the bottle was broken deliberately there is no question he chose to thrust the bottle into the neck of the man who irritated him,’ said Mr Penny.

‘The effect of his actions were obvious to all. The severing of the carotid artery resulted in immediate and copious bleeding.’

Partygoer Tim Chase, one of 1,500 guests, described the sound of the bottle strike as ‘like a plastic glass being hit.’

‘I saw a massive gash in the victim’s neck with blood streaming out of it,’ he said.

‘I put my hand on it, putting pressure, but no matter what we did it didn’t stop so I stuck my fingers in the hole in his neck and that’s what stemmed it.’

Star of the show: Singer Jessie J - pictured as she entered the building - performed for guests at the event

Star of the show: Singer Jessie J - pictured as she entered the building - performed for guests at the event

Devastated: Jane Sherriff, widow of Phillip Sherriff, at the Old Bailey

Devastated: Jane Sherriff, widow of Phillip Sherriff, at the Old Bailey

Mr Chase was later commended by the judge and awarded a £250 reward for his actions.

Another reveller, Mark Weyman, then asked the bar staff for some clingfilm.

He said: ‘I administered first aid by tying plastic around the victim’s neck to stem the flow of blood.’

Mr Weyman had earlier tackled Charles to the ground moments after the attack on Mr Sheriff.

‘He was heading towards me, he had a complete look of panic on his face,’ he said. ‘I was in no doubt the guy staggering away had assaulted the guy who was bleeding.

‘I grabbed the suspect and got him to the ground. The bouncers approached me and I explained the guy I was holding had just bottled the other guy.’

Another partygoer who witnessed the attack was Laura Taylor, a journalist for the Press Association, who said she was waiting for her friend to collect her coat when she heard a bottle smash.

Charles was held by staff at the scene and told the head of security: ‘I wish I hadn’t done that. It was a stupid mistake. Why did I do that?’

Attacked: Phillip Sheriff, 37, is lifted into an ambulance outside the Pulse nightclub after being stabbed at a celebrity-packed party held by smartphone firm Blackberry

Attacked: Phillip Sheriff, 37, is lifted into an ambulance outside the Pulse nightclub after being stabbed at a celebrity-packed party held by smartphone firm Blackberry

Dramatic finish: Jessie J and Wretch 32 wowed the crowds at the party before the violence after the show ended

Dramatic finish: Jessie J and Wretch 32 wowed the crowds at the party before the violence after the show ended

Giving evidence, he claimed he had instinctively ‘flapped out’ because he thought Mr Sheriff was going to hit him.

He said the older man had barged against him after loudly discussing with someone on the phone how they were going to ‘do the c***’.

Charles, who has no previous convictions and had never been arrested, said he was ‘fearful of trouble being arranged’ when he made the vain attempt to snatch Mr Sheriff’s phone from him.
‘But he smiled at me and basically told me I was in trouble,’ he added.

‘It was something along the lines of, “You’re f***ed'.

‘When I saw the bottle in his hand I panicked.

‘I took the bottle off him. I instinctively flapped out and slapped him.’

He insisted he had not broken the bottle beforehand and suggested it must have struck something else before it connected with Mr Sheriff.

Asked if he had intended to injure Mr Sheriff, he replied: ‘Absolutely not. I was unhappy. I was devastated.

‘I didn’t intend to harm him and I could see he was hurt. I was really, really angry with myself - and have been and will be.

‘I didn’t want that to happen.’

Overshadowed: Emergency services lined the street outside the event that had been intended to promote BlackBerry's instant messenger service

Overshadowed: Emergency services lined the street outside the event that had been intended to promote BlackBerry's instant messenger service

Music fans: Made In Chelsea star Francesca Hull and TOWIE's Joey Essex were among the celebs at the night

Assisting the authorities: Celebrities including The Only Way Is Essex star Lauren Goodger, left, and former N-Dubz member Fazer gave their details to police as they left the Blackberry party

Glamorous: Reality TV star Nicola McLean and singer Dionne Bromfield also attended the star-studded bash


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