Tavis's parents tell court of their heartache
PUBLISHED: 14:12 29 April 2019 | UPDATED: 09:12 30 April 2019
The parents of murdered Ipswich teenager Tavis Spencer-Aitkens have told a court of the devastating impact of their son's death on their lives, while lawyers for the five gang members found guilty of his killing have made pleas on their behalf.
Tavis's mother Sharon Box, who wore a T-shirt with a picture of her son on it, looked directly at the defendants in the dock at Ipswich Crown Court and said Tavis would haunt them for the rest of their lives.
Tavis's father, Neville Aitkens, had to leave court half way though his statement and it was completed by prosecution barrister Oliver Glasgow QC.
In her statement Mrs Box described the “unbearable” pain she felt about her son's death.
Meanwhile Tavis's father Neville Aitkens, was overcome with emotion and had to leave court half way though his statement and it was completed for him by prosecution barrister Oliver Glasgow QC.
In her statement Mrs Box described the “unbearable” pain she felt about her son's death and described his killers as “uncaring creatures”.
“There is no escape from it,” she said.
“My son died alone. I never had the chance to say goodbye. I never had the chance to tell him how much I love him. I never had the chance to comfort him as he slipped away.
“I awake every morning and the first thought I have is how terrified Tavis must have been.
“The thought then stays with me all day every day and I awake at night thinking about it.
“My life is shattered and my heart is broken beyond repair. I am devastated and I will never feel the same again. My son is dead.
“Tavis deserved to live his life. He deserved to marry and become a father. Tavis was cruelly and unnecessarily taken from me by uncaring, wicked individuals.
“Their actions have robbed me of my precious son. Those who did this will never know how much I loved Tavis and still do. If they could truly understand that, they would never have hurt him.
“Since Tavis's death we have had to go through Christmas, Tavis and his twin brother Tyler's 18th birthday, Mothers' Day and we now have to deal with being without him for all these significant family occasions for the rest of our lives.”
Mrs Box said that at the end of 2017 she took a second job to earn extra money to save for a special holiday to Jamaica for Tavis and Tyler to celebrate their 18th birthday.
“Tavis was really looking forward to it, now instead of taking him I am taking his ashes,” she said.
“I have had to attend court for 14 weeks and over that period of time listen in minute detail to the events that happened that day.
“I have had to sit and see images of the defendants going shopping, laughing and joking that evening knowing that Tavis was dead.
“My mental health has suffered as a result of the loss of Tavis. I have been unable to work since this happened which has meant our household has gone from a dual income to a sole income. This has had a massive impact in our family finances.
“What has happened to Tavis has not destroyed one person but my whole family. They did not just kill him that day but they have also killed me. I don't know how I will get over the loss of my son.”
Mr Aitkens said his son's death was the most painful thing that he and his partner Helen had ever had to deal with.
Looking across at the defendants sitting in the dock he said: “You've killed me.”
He said Tavis's death had broken his heart and every day he looked out of his window to see a memorial tree for his son.
He also described the effect on his step-daughter Candice of trying to stop Tavis bleeding from his wounds with towels and trying to comfort him and keep him calm because he couldn't breathe.
“He didn't stand a chance because one or all of you stabbed him in the heart,” said Mr Aitkens.
“This was my son bleeding to death on my doorstep.”
Mr Aitkens said he never expected he would have to bury his son, who would now never have the chance to marry, have children or grow old because of the defendants' actions.
He said that every parent wanted to be able to protect their children but he felt helpless because he hadn't been able to do that.
Before the court are Aristote Yenge, 23, of Spring Road, Ipswich, Kyreis Davies, 17, of Turnstile Square, Colchester, Adebayo Amusa, 23, of Sovereign Road, Barking and Isaac Calver, 18, of Firmin Close, Ipswich, who were all convicted of murdering 17-year-old Tavis last month.
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A fifth defendant, Callum Plaats, 23, of Ipswich, was convicted of manslaughter by a majority 10-1 verdict.
The five, who had all denied being involved in the killing, were back before Ipswich Crown Court today (Monday April 29) for trial judge Martyn Levett to hear submissions from barristers in the case before deciding the minimum sentence they will each have to serve in custody.
Oliver Glasgow QC, prosecuting said Yenge had previous offences for matters including robbery and possession of heroin and crack cocaine with intent to supply.
He was also sentenced to eight months in a young offenders institution in 2016 for violent disorder in a fight between two gangs in Ipswich during which Yenge armed himself with a bottle from a shop.
The court heard Plaats was sentenced to detention in a young offenders institution in 2014 for robbery after the victim was taken by Plaats to a disused railway bridge where nine males were waiting and attacked him with a bottle.
The court heard Amusa had previous convictions including possessing cannabis, while Mr Glasgow said Calver's previous convictions included possession of heroin and cocaine with intent to supply.
Steven Dyble, for Yenge, said his client was only 23 and asked the judge to moderate the minimum term he would have to serve of a life sentence because of that.
He said Yenge had spent part of his childhood in care and was very much the product of his unfortunate start in life and upbringing.
He said Yenge had been wearing a distinctive jumper on the day of the murder and it couldn't be said efforts had been made to conceal his identity.
David Bentley QC, for Davies, said his client was the youngest defendant by 30 months and was only 16 at the time of the murder.
He said drugs and gangs were part of Davies' upbringing and he had been the victim of a stabbing in 2017.
Mr Bentley added that although Davies was going to lose a large chunk of his life in custody he was young enough to change.
He said it wasn't appropriate on the evidence to say Davies was the initiator or guiding force behind what happened, and although he'd been convicted of murder his precise role wasn't known.
Paul Kelleher QC, for Calver, said his client had no previous convictions for violence or having a weapon and his activity on YouTube wasn't aimed at any opposing party or organisation.
He said Calver had gone along on the day in question out of friendship and loyalty to others which were highly misplaced sentiments born from his youth and immaturity.
He said that while other young men of his age would be starting out in further education he would be starting a life sentence.
Elizabeth Marsh QC, for Amusa, said that if her client hadn't made a telephone call to arrange transport on the day of the killing it might not have happened.
“This weighs heavily on his conscience,” she said.
She said the prosecution case was that Amusa had hit Tavis over the head with a bottle and the obvious inference was that he hadn't been armed with a knife.
She said Amusa had only been in Ipswich for three or four months before Tavis's death and had no idea of the animosity between the JBlock and Neno gangs.
Simon Spence QC, for Plaats, said that following his release from a 40 month custodial sentence for robbery imposed in 2014 his client had not reoffended until June last year.
He said Plaats was vulnerable due to his autism and was “one of life's followers rather than one of life's leaders.”
During their four month trial the court heard Tavis was “hunted down like prey” and “butchered” to death after being stabbed 15 times and hit over the head with a bottle as he walked along Packard Avenue near his father's home in June last year.
The court heard there was bitter rivalry between the JBlock gang from the Jubilee Park area of Ipswich and the Neno gang, from the Nacton area of Ipswich.
The fatal attack on Tavis was the result of what JBlock perceived to be a loss of respect following a row between two of their friends and two of Tavis's friends earlier on the day of the killing.
On that occasion two members of Neno had confronted two members of J Block in Ipswich town centre.
The two JBlock members had taken refuge in the Lush store but before any violence took place a police officer ran in and ordered the two Neno members to leave.
Within a couple of hours members of JBlock had been rounded up and a plan was made to go in search of a Neno gang member to seek revenge.
Following the attack on Tavis his step-sister rushed to his aid and saw a deep cut to his throat and a number of injuries to his back.
Doctors who arrived at the scene found a stab wound to Tavis's heart and performed emergency surgery in an attempt to stem the loss of blood but he later died.