An 89-year-old war veteran from Bolton accused of slashing the throat of a foul-mouthed neighbour has condemned Britain’s ‘mannerless society’ – after being cleared of all criminal wrongdoing.
Regular churchgoer William Dutton was arrested and charged with attempted murder after he armed himself with a kitchen knife and confronted Steven Waring, 61, outside their suburban bungalows during a row over the old man’s disabled son.
During the scuffle, frail Mr Dutton – a former RAF engineer who served in Sierra Leone during World War Two – was accused of shouting at Mr Waring ‘I will bloody kill you’.
He then grappled with him in front of shocked onlookers before the pair then collapsed to the floor at which point Mr Waring realised he had been seriously injured.
Mr Waring, who lived with his wife Janette, 56, was taken to hospital where he had surgery for a 10cm cut across his neck.
It was claimed the two men had come to blows after Mr Dutton believed Mr Waring had been ‘intimidating’ his 64-year old son Ronald, who has to walk with the aid of a stick due to diabetes and asthma problems.
Mr Dutton snr, who has been married to his 87-year-old wife Iris for 64 years and who is hard of hearing, told police Mr Waring must have accidentally injured himself during the struggle for the knife.
He told officers: “Waring was effing and blinding and all that caper. He is nothing but a big bully. I was just going to threaten him that’s all, not stab him with it, just frighten him with it.
“He had already knocked my son in the gutter. He held his arms out then he wrestled with the knife. I was hoping he would back away. If I had picked the knife up to assault him I would have held it horizontally to thrust it in — but it was vertical.”
At Bolton Crown Court today, Mr Dutton went on trial charged with lesser offences of wounding with intent and unlawful wounding.
But he walked free after the case was thrown out by a judge who cited ‘inconsistencies’ in prosecution evidence which heard it was Mr Waring himself who shouted ‘I will bloody kill you’ moments before the stabbing.
Whilst awaiting trial, Mr Dutton was remanded to a Travel Lodge hotel as he was considered too frail to be detained in jail and he wore an electronic tag.
After the case the retired engineer said: “It has been a terrible ordeal but I was confident from the beginning that I wouldn’t be convicted of anything.
“We have known Mr and Mrs Waring for 12 years and as far as I’m concerned they’ve never been best of neighbours and I take everything they say with a pinch of salt.
“The only good news is they might be moving out as we think we saw estate agents go around the other day. We are just going to ignore them as much as possible and try and go back to normal but it has been months of torment.”
The war veteran added that he believes ‘times have changed’ and that ‘some people in society are just mannerless when it comes to being neighbourly’.
He added: “I served my country and I just never thought I would be in this position when I stood up for my own son. Back when I was young people were very polite to each other and that is mostly the case today too, apart from our next door neighbours. This would never have happened 50 years ago.”
The fight was the culmination of a 12 year neighbour dispute between the Duttons and the Warings, who lived next door to each other in £120,000 homes in Breighmet Drive in Breightmet near Bolton.
The origins of the feud were not known but relations deteriorated when Mrs Waring claimed she had been hit over the head by Ronald with his walking stick.
Police had also been called to the addresses and warned Mr Waring to stay away from the Duttons.
The night before the incident itself Ronald himself had called the police after feeling ‘intimidated’ by Mr Waring.
The row culminated in bloodshed last January when Mr Waring spotted Ronald walking down the street and decided to have a word with him.
He initially walked to the end of his driveway and shouted up the street at Ronald, ‘would you like to hit me over the head with your stick’.
But Ronald sensing trouble asked another neighbour John Morton for help and the pair began walking towards Mr Waring.
Mr Waring told the jury: “I just stood at the edge of the drive, as soon as they got to the side of me I said, because John’s here I will ask you again, ‘do you want to hit me over the head with your stick?’”
“He just looked at me, he just dropped to his hands and knees and started yelling and crying ‘I have been assaulted I have been assaulted’. I never attacked him, not in the slightest. I turned round to John and said, ‘can you see what I have to f..king put up with’. He just carried on shouting at the top of his voice.”
It is thought Mr Dutton heard raised voices, grabbed a knife from his kitchen and went outside to confront his next door neighbour.
Mr Waring added: “I didn’t see where he came from until he said ‘I will bloody kill you’. I turned around and the next thing I know I thought he was going to punch me, obviously he had a knife in his hand.
“He slashed my throat. He came at me by surprise. I just felt it going very warm, all my clothes went very soggy. I put my hand to my neck, it was that deep my finger went inside my neck.”
Mr Waring said that he called Dutton ‘a f..king bastard’ adding, ‘you have knifed me’ and pushed the old man over.
He said he went inside his house and got his wife to call an ambulance as he put kitchen roll to his neck.
He added: “I knew it was a really, really bad injury, I was feeling a little bit faint.”
But during the hearing, the judge was asked to dismiss the case after Mr Morton said he saw Mr Waring go towards Mr Dutton who remained on his drive.
Mr Morton claimed it was Mr Waring who said: ‘I will bloody kill you.’ He said it was a ‘coming together and a face-to-face entanglement.’
Ordering the jury to return not guilty verdicts, the judge Mr Recorder Jeremy Lasker said: “I have come to the conclusion that because of the significant inconsistencies from the eye witnesses accounts you are in an impossible position and you could not possible convict.”
Mr Waring refused to comment after the hearing.
Story via Cavendish Press.
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