Killer of gay student David Brown sentenced to life imprisonment

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A man was convicted today of murdering a gay student in a Manchester court. 24-year-old David Brown was killed hours after partying in Manchester’s gay village.

Keith Roy Erskine of Osprey Court, Trafford was found guilty of the murder and robbery of 24-year-old student David Brown.

Erskine was sentenced to life imprisonment and ordered to serve a minimum term of 25 years before he will be eligible to apply for parole. He was also sentenced to a nine year concurrent sentence for the robbery of Brown and another student.

Brown, who was 24, was found dead outside the door to his flat on Chorlton Road in Hulme at 7.30am on Friday 21 September 2007. He had been stabbed.

Brown, who was originally from Burnley but had lived and worked in Manchester for three years, had been on a night out in Manchester city centre on Thursday 20 September 2007. He had been to a number of gay bars during the course of the night, ending up in Cruz 101 on Canal Street.

The last time Brown was seen was shortly after 2am on Friday 21 September 2007 when he left the bar.

Hours later, his body was found on the doorstep of his flat.

He had been stabbed in his left leg and his chest. He suffered four stab wounds in total.

He had been robbed of his wallet.

Police launched a murder investigation and, piece by piece, detectives started putting together the jigsaw that would lead them to Erskine, a local drug addict and thief who was intent on preying upon students.

Detectives trawled through hours of CCTV footage and saw Brown walking along Stretford Road near Hulme Library.

As he disappeared from view, a man wearing a hooded top was seen running up the road behind him.

At the time, Erskine was living in Osprey Court, a nearby estate, and a man in a hooded top was seen going into Osprey Court 11 minutes after Brown was last seen alive.

During the murder probe, the images were shown to a forensic podiatrist, who analysed the gait of the suspect with that of Erskine, and an expert in forensic imaging. They concluded that there was strong scientific support to show the man seen running by the library was Erskine.

A witness who was with Erskine on the night of the murder told police Erskine told him he was actively looking for a student to rob.

Erskine had robbed a student of his phone earlier that night but then took the witness to Chorlton Road, where he admitted carrying out another robbery. He pointed towards where Brown lived and said he had ‘plunged him’.

He was told to call for an ambulance.

Three 999 calls were made, two of which were made using the phone of the man who was robbed before Brown was murdered.

Expert voice analysis was carried out and the caller was found to be Erskine, using a fake Irish accent.

Though an ambulance arrived, Brown’s body was concealed behind a wall and lay undiscovered for hours.

During the course of the investigation, murder detectives also used the groundbreaking technique of filming Brown Brown’s mother and sister making a direct appeal to the witness who asked Erskine to call for an ambulance. He had not wanted to give evidence in court and their emotional appeals, which were played to him, convinced him to testify against Erskine.

Speaking after the case, Detective Superintendent Peter Jackson said: “Brown had gone out that night to enjoy an evening with his friend, but he had the tragic misfortune to cross the path of Erskine, who was prowling the streets looking for someone to rob.

“David Brown was a young man who had so much to look to forward to in life. He had just enrolled to learn Spanish at Manchester Metropolitan University so he could move to Spain. By contrast, Erskine was a drug addict whose sole thought was when and how he was going to get his next fix.

“The sentence passed by the court will go some way to helping this devastated family deal with Brown’s murder, but in many ways they have their own life sentence.”

Brown’s family described him as a fun-loving and friendly person, who enjoyed life to the full and who dreamt of a new life in Spain.

Speaking after the court case, Brown’s heartbroken mother, Sylvia Watson said: “I am relieved that the jury arrived at this verdict.

“However, whatever sentence is laid down it will not be enough. Nothing will ever compensate for the loss of my son and how he met his death.

“David was a kind, honest, hardworking and gentle natured son. He has family and friends who both love and miss him alike.

“If you are reading or watching this right now please stop for a moment.

“You will probably be living your normal lives now with your family as I was. Looking forward to Christmas. My Christmas and indeed the rest of my life will be mixed with great pain – a pain that will never go away. Only if you have suffered the loss of a child will you even begin to understand this pain.

“You may be able to stop another mother going through this pain in the future. If you know of anyone who carries a knife please report them to the police. I hope the Government will take a more proactive approach to knife crime and put in place even stronger measures to support the police and get these people off the streets.

“I love my son with all my heart. Please don’t let his death be in vain and stop these avoidable deaths now.

“During the trial, one witness who saw David after he’d been stabbed said he did not look at peace in death, he looked scared.

“That was a horrific thing to have to hear and I hope it brings home the horror of what people who carry knives actually do.”