A Bolton handyman was murdered by mistake after his disgruntled mother-in-law recruited a hitman to ‘give him a couple of slaps’ during a feud over her daughter.
Marc Jepson, 40, paid with his life when he became locked in a bitter family fall out with Irene Hodgkiss, 63, after he split up with wife Sandra.
The angry grandmother urged her nephew Carl Hodgkiss to ‘do her bidding’ and give Jepson a beating but he went too far and battered, stabbed and strangled the victim during a violent struggle.
Police found Jepson’s body at his home in Bolton following calls from a neighbour who were worried when they saw his door wide open.
Tests showed the victim had suffered 50 injuries and was throttled with such force his voice box and a bone in his neck had been fractured. He had also been beaten and also had a number of stab wounds to his leg and lower abdomen.
Police discovered in the run up to the killing, text messages had had been sent between Sandra, 41, and her mother.
In one, Irene said she had a ‘dark alley’ in mind for her son-in-law and in another, Sandra said: “My mum just wants to go round Jeps’ house with a baseball bat lol.”
Irene, of Farnworth, near Bolton, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit actual bodily harm but was cleared conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm.
She was given a 12 month prison suspended for two years, and put under supervision for 12 months.
At an earlier hearing her nephew, 28, was found guilty of murder and ordered to serve at least 14 years of a life sentence.
Manchester Crown Court heard Jepson had separated from wife Sandra in September, 2011 and a bitter family dispute had ensued. In March last year, Irene became so frustrated over the split she invited her nephew to her bungalow where she asked him to ‘go and sort Marc out, give him a couple of slaps’.
Two weeks later mechanic Carl visited Jepson’s home and returned to Irene’s house later to say that he had ‘given him a few slaps and left him on the sofa nursing a sore head’. In fact Jepson suffered bruising and several wounds to his chest and legs, including one stab wound which had gone into and out of his thigh.
CCTV footage caught Carl arriving at Jepson’s home at 11.07pm and leaving at 11.38pm having throttled him during the 31 minute encounter before being seen heading towards Irene’ house.
When police arrested them, Irene claimed she was upset at the way Jepson was treating a relative. Carl initially denied any involvement in the murder but eventually admitted killing the victim – claimed it was in self-defence.
He said during his visit to the victim’s house, he told Jepson to ‘leave Bolton by Friday’ as the victim was making him a cup of tea and added: ”The atmosphere was tense and I think he knew what I was there for.”
He described how Jepson ‘launched at him’ and they both swung out at each other before Hodgkiss pushed him on to a sofa. Hodgkiss said he grabbed his arm as Jepson picked up a pair of scissors from a table nearby. He said he slipped on the floor and he and Jepson were then ‘scrapping’ on the ground.
Hodgkiss said: “I have shoved him down and got on top of him. That is when I put my fist on his throat. I wanted to keep him away and then his arms just dropped.”
When asked he felt he said: “Panic, fear, sick — because he has died and because of what has just gone on. My whole world has collapsed. I never went round to fight him.”
During the trial Irene said she would have handed her nephew over to police if she thought he had killed someone. She said at the time she did not consider Jepson’s death was linked to her nephew’s visit until she was arrested, thinking it must have been caused by diabetes.
In mitigation, her counsel Wayne Jackson said: “This has had a significant effect on her. She has a great deal of sympathy for the deceased’s family. She has numerous health issues.”
But Judge Michael Henshell told Irene: “The reality behind your conviction reflects the awful events that took place resulting in a death. You were the spark that lit the fire, the fire being Carl Hodgkiss, a person you asked to go round and give a few slaps to Marc Jepson. The reason you asked him is you knew he was the sort of person capable of doing that – capable of violence.
“You didn’t expect that the violence would get to the level it did and result in the awful tragedy of the death of Marc Jepson but you sent him round there. He went round to do your bidding. The fact that matters got out of control can’t wholly be laid on your door. You couldn’t have foreseen he would go so far as to cause death.
“You had become frustrated with Marc Jepson’s behaviour towards your family. But he was a man who had never done harm to anybody.”
After the case Senior Investigator Duncan Thorpe of Greater Manchester Police said: “Whatever the reason was for Carl going round to Marc’s home shortly after 11 pm that night, it is clear that Carl carried out a sustained and vicious attack on Marc.
“Carl then ran away from the scene leaving Marc dead in his own home. This was a tragic incident and has affected the local community deeply.”
Story via Cavendish Press.