One second to take a life

Phillip Sherriff
Phillip Sherriff

‘Genuine, nice, witty, funny, bright and amiable’

Heartfelt words of tribute to a married Lancaster dad-of-two as the man who murdered him in a “ghastly attack” at a London nightclub was sent to jail for life.

Philip Sherriff, a former Dallas Road Primary School and Central Lancaster High School pupil who was brought up in Milking Stile Lane, died after being slashed in the throat with a broken bottle at a Jessie J nightclub appearance.

Following his conviction in a London court, art director Ashley Charles, 26, from Leicester, has now started a minimum 14-year jail term for the murder of Mr Sherriff, 37, a married father-of-two who lived in Scorton near Garstang.

The attack happened at a party at the Pulse nightclub in Southwark
Road on the South Bank last April 3, which Mr Sherriff, a former 
Lancaster & Morecambe College student, had attended as a guest of his employer, Blackberry.

Charles denied murder and claimed he had only lashed out with the bottle because he feared Mr 
Sherriff was going to attack him. But his defence was dismissed and he was convicted on Friday following a 
two-week trial at the Old Bailey.

Mr Sherriff’s widow Jane sat in the well of the court throughout the trial and sobbed and embraced members of her family as the verdicts were 

She 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.

Jane said of her late husband: “Nothing will fill the massive hole left in my life when Philip was so brutally taken away from us.

“I will be fighting hard to ensure no other family experiences the hell that we’ve been put through. “Now I face the challenge of moving on to the next chapter in my 

Jane and her two children, aged five and eight, are still being treated for post-traumatic stress and she has been unable to return to work.

The blow, which was caught on CCTV, severed Mr Sherriff’s carotid artery and jugular vein and caused massive blood loss.

Partygoers desperately tried to stem the bleeding with clingfilm but he died in hospital four days later.

Charles and Mr Sherriff clashed just after midnight while jostling for space at the event’s free bar after singer Jessie J had finished her performance on stage.

After further pushing and shoving between the men, Charles unsuccessfully tried to snatch Mr Sherriff’s mobile phone.

He then grabbed the older man’s bottle of beer before swinging it at his neck.

“Witnesses described seeing the blow as a swipe or slash,” said prosecutor Duncan Penny.

“It all happened very quickly, perhaps one second – one second to take a life.”

Experts say the bottle was broken before it hit Mr Sherriff’s neck, possibly 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.”

Jailing Charles for life with a minimum term of 14 years, Judge Paul Worsley told him: “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.”

He added: “You destroyed by your actions so much that was good in that family.”

Detective Inspector Richard Beadle added: “Philip Sherriff has died in a way that is too ghastly for any of us to describe.

“It is fair to say that after Mr Charles attacked him he didn’t have any chance of survival.

“It is quite sad that, although Ashley Charles has shown some remorse, that is mainly for himself.”

Speaking via Twitter following the tragedy, pop star Jessie J said: “I am lost for words.

“All I can say is my thoughts, love and respects are with the family and children of the man who attended the gig last week who sadly lost his life… so sad.”

Described by friends in Lancaster as “a very amiable guy, genuinely very nice, very witty, very funny, and very bright”, Mr Sherriff worked at Morrisons in Morecambe between 1994 and 1996, and then got a job at clothes shop Stolen From Ivor in Lancaster, where he met his bride to be Jane.

After studying business at Lancaster and Morecambe College, he moved to Hull with Jane, who studied at university there, in 1997.

It was here that Philip started working for the telecoms industry, and following two years living in Penrith in 2000, during which time the couple married, they moved back to Galgate in 2002.

At the time, Philip worked in sales for mobile phone company 02 covering the north west of England, and the young family moved to Scorton in 2005 to bring up their two children.

He was described by friends as an “all rounder” at sport and played pool in a team for Squire’s Pool Bar in Lancaster.