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Ex Stratford drug addict jailed for killing

PUBLISHED: 17:01 29 December 2010

Tommy Willett

Tommy Willett

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A FORMER drug addict who was a passenger in a getaway car that killed a businessman after a bungled theft has been convicted of manslaughter.

The victim Balbir Matharu

Tommy Willett, 27, of the Clays Lane travellers’ site in Stratford, East London, was jailed for 16 years after jurors found him guilty of the manslaughter of Balbir Matharu on January 12, 2006, following a retrial.

Willett and his older brother Albert, 28, who drove the car, were convicted of 54-year-old Mr Matharu’s murder at the Old Bailey in 2008.

But in July but Tommy’s conviction was overturned after it was ruled that there was insufficient evidence that he encouraged his brother to run over the father-of-two.

Woolwich Crown Court heard that Mr Matharu, known to his friends as Peter, was dragged under the brothers’ green Ford Mondeo for 40 metres after trying to stop them leaving a car park in Francis Street, Stratford.

He had stood in front of the car with his hands on the bonnet after he witnessed them trying to get away after breaking into his work van to steal a stereo, witnesses said.

An ex-lover of Tommy Willett, who met him in a squat near Maryland station where they used to take heroin and crack cocaine together, said that the brothers became “excited” after hearing that a reconstruction of the incident had been shown on BBC’s Crimewatch in April that year.

She said that Tommy would “boast” about the incident and “tell anybody that would listen” about the incident.

She added: “He said he went and broke a window in the car, I can’t remember if it was a car or a van, but before he got the chance to take the radio, the man whose vehicle it was came over and started shouting.

“He stood in front of the car and said ‘No, No, you broke my window, you have to wait for the police’.

“Tommy said ‘If you don’t move out the way, we are going to run you over’.

“He wouldn’t move out the way so they ran him over.”

She said: “It was like he was boasting about it. People that he never knew, he was telling within minutes of meeting them and every time he was the driver.”

Investigators claim that either one or two wheels of the car drove over his chest as Mr Matharu who worked six days a week for his family double glazing business and a friend’s building supplies company ACS Ltd in Leytonstone Road, became dislodged from under the vehicle.

But giving evidence, Willett said that he thought Mr Matharu had “fallen” and didn’t think he had been run over.

He added: “I was shocked, I was scared, I didn’t think he got run over, I thought he fell at the side of the car. At that time I was heavily on heroin and crack. I wasn’t thinking straight. All I was thinking of at the time was where I could get drugs from.

“When I heard the word murder, it scared the life out of me. It messed my head up, I didn’t know what to think.”

He added: “We didn’t go there for that, we went there to nick and get money. We didn’t want to hurt anyone, it wasn’t what was meant to happen.”

But evidence recorded in police interview rooms and given by a former cellmate, known as witness B, was heard showing that Tommy joked about the incident with his brother.

He was heard encouraging his brother to say ‘no comment’ in interview, adding: “I can’t do an L-Plate, you know, life, life, I can’t do an L-plate.”

He later joked to his brother: “Hey, we get ourselves in some good situations don’t we?” the court heard.

Mr Matharu died four hours after the incident at Newham General Hospital after suffering a heart attack during an exploratory operation carried out after he failed to respond to a blood transfusion.

After 36 minutes of resuscitation, he was pronounced dead at 4.30pm.

Willett, who cannot read or write and has never been to school, first became addicted to drugs at the age of 14 and by the time of the incident was stealing from cars to fund his £150 a day habit.

The incident, which happened on the same day as that of lawyer Thomas ap Rhys Price, 31, who was stabbed in Kensal Green, was used as an example by former commissioner Sir Ian Blair of “institutional racism” in the media.


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