Burglar who ran over Leeds graduate twice as his wife watched on in horror is jailed for life

Photos issued by Greater Manchester Police of Mike Samwell (left) and Ryan Gibbons. Gibbons has been handed a life sentence and told he must serve a minimum of 27 years for twice running over the ex-Royal Navy officer as his wife watched in horror. PA
Photos issued by Greater Manchester Police of Mike Samwell (left) and Ryan Gibbons. Gibbons has been handed a life sentence and told he must serve a minimum of 27 years for twice running over the ex-Royal Navy officer as his wife watched in horror. PA

A burglar has been handed a life sentence and told he must serve a minimum of 27 years for twice running over a University of Leeds graduate as his wife watched in horror.

Ryan Gibbons, 29, reversed over Mike Samwell then drove over him a second time as the former serviceman tried to stop his £36,000 Audi S3 sports car being stolen.

Photos issued by the family of Mike Samwell. PA

Photos issued by the family of Mike Samwell. PA

Gibbons gave no reaction but there were gasps from his family in the public gallery and one said "You're joking", before his father shouted "Love you, son" as he was taken down to the cells at Manchester Crown Court.

Moments earlier Mr Samwell's wife Jessica had read a poignant victim impact statement to the court speaking of her "overwhelming grief" as she watched her husband die.

The couple had been woken in the night as burglars broke into their £450,000 house on Cranbourne Road, Chorlton, south Manchester, snatching the keys to the car from the kitchen table.

Mr Samwell, a nuclear engineer after serving 12 years in the forces, rushed outside in his boxer shorts, shouting "Get out of the car!", followed by his wife who saw him go under the wheels as Gibbons sped off.

She held his hand and told him she loved him as he lay dying from "catastrophic" chest and heart injuries.

Passing sentence Mr Justice William Davis told Gibbons: "He was killed in front of her eyes and died as she was holding his hand on the driveway of his own home.

"You are a dangerous young man, you are a regular burglar and on this occasion, to get what you wanted, you quite ruthlessly killed a man."

'Catastrophic'

Mrs Samwell, with dark rings under her eyes and a halting voice, spoke from the witness box as Gibbons and co-defendant Raymond Davies lowered their heads and did not look at her.

She said: "There are no words that can truly express how the loss of Mike has affected me.

"I feel overwhelming grief for the future we will never have, the birthdays and anniversaries, and to think of the children we will never share is devastating.

"The loss of such a caring, loyal and warm man who supported me for 10 years is too much to bear.

"The hole he's left becomes even more tangible.

"I now know the days get harder, the physical pain, loss and longing for Mike has not ended.

"The loss of Mike has felt catastrophic."

Mrs Samwell described her husband as her "best friend" and team mate", and said she now found it too traumatic to return to work and the happy home they shared.

She continued: "The stark reminder of what happened on that night felt like too much to cope with.

"It feels like no-one will ever understand.

"The last image I have of Mike lying on the ground, groaning in pain, holding his hand will stay with me for the rest of my life.

"The man who meant more to me than anything in the world had been mindlessly and brutally killed."

Cocaine and drink

Father-of-four Gibbons, of Steven Court, Chorlton, and Davies, 21, were convicted on Tuesday after a three-week trial.

Gibbons was found guilty of murder, and Davies, who drove him to the address and picked him up after the car was taken, was jailed for eight years for manslaughter.

Gibbons had a long record of burglary and theft, while Davies had previous convictions for drugs offences.

The court heard how Gibbons, a £600-a-week concrete floor contractor, who does not have a driving licence, had been taking cocaine and drinking on the night Mr Samwell died.

He returned home then went to buy some cannabis but came across Davies sat in his car with two other men he refused to name.

Gibbons claimed talk turned to carrying out a burglary to steal a "nice car" to sell for £2,000 and he suggested the Samwells' house because of the Audi.

Davies dropped them off outside and Gibbons waited while the other two men broke in and gave him the keys to get the car.

Mr Samwell and his wife were woken at 3am by a sound every householder "must fear and dread" as burglars smashed the kitchen patio doors.

He ran downstairs in his underwear and went outside, followed by his wife.

She broke down in tears, giving evidence from behind a screen in the witness box, telling jurors she saw her husband on the floor with the wheels of his car resting on his chest.

The car then rolled off him as it reversed, leaving him between both sets of wheels. It ran over him again and sped off.

Gibbons claimed he was not aware of anyone near the car but felt "something under the back wheels".

In cross-examination, Alistair Webster QC, prosecuting, asked him: "What was it about the 5ft 11in man wearing just his boxer shorts and shouting for you to get out of his car, what was it you failed to notice?"

Gibbons replied: "I never seen anybody."

Mr Samwell suffered 39 separate external injuries, with fatal injuries to his heart and chest, and was pronounced dead in hospital.

Mark Andrews, senior prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) North West, said: "Ryan Gibbons claimed what happened was a terrible accident and that he was not aware he had driven over someone. The prosecution proved, however, that it was far from accidental.

"Through the analysis of forensic evidence, combined with the eyewitness evidence, we have shown that Gibbons must have realised Mr Samwell was under the car as he reversed and then drove forward over him again. He also must have known that doing so would cause serious injury or death.

"This is a tragic case, and our thoughts and sympathies are with all of Mike Samwell's family and friends. In particular, I would like to pay tribute to the tremendous courage of Mrs Samwell who witnessed the terrible events but was able to give evidence and help bring those responsible to justice."

'Real mettle and leadership'

Captain Iain Breckenridge, the former commanding officer of HMS Tireless, on which Mr Samwell served as a submariner, said: "Mike joined as deputy weapons engineering officer and from the outset worked very hard to learn his trade and his boat, demonstrating real self-confidence and his fine engineering knowledge; we knew he was a good man.

"He showed real mettle and leadership in a hugely difficult situation to ensure his men were both looked after and able to fulfil their roles.

"I was impressed that he achieved this with no drop in his service to his head of department or the command. Mike just got on with his job in an unassuming and professional manner and earned the trust and respect of everyone in Tireless.

"I felt a keen pain and deep sadness when I learned of Mike's death. He stood tall when events demanded it and that is how I will remember him."

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