Identity of 16-year-old boy who murdered James Gibbons revealed

Revealed: Identity of boy, 16, convicted of murdering Good Samaritan father who broke off from his twin daughters’ second birthday to stop gang harassing homeless man

  • Joshua Sparks, 16, named for the first time as killer of James Gibbons in Essex
  • Justice Bourne lifted order preventing publication of name at Chelmsford Court
  • Mr Gibbons was attacked on the day of his daughter’s second birthday party 

The 16-year-old boy who murdered father-of-four James Gibbons on the day of his twin daughters’ second birthday party has today been named as Joshua Sparks.

Mr Justice Bourne lifted the order banning the publication of Sparks’ name at Chelmsford Crown Court today, citing the principle of open justice. 

Friday marked the first time Sparks’ name was revealed in court, as his identity was previously protected under reporting restrictions. 

Media outlets had previously protested over Sparks’ right to anonymity considering the grave consequences of his attack, and the fact that once he turns 18 next year he could be legally named anyway.

The teenager is set to be sentenced after he was found guilty of murder by a majority verdict of 10 to two following trial.

Sparks had previously claimed he was acting in self-defence and denied committing murder, but this was rejected by a jury. 

James Gibbons (pictured), 34, was stabbed after rushing to the aid of a homeless man outside his house in Laindon, Essex, just moments after he had kindly given the man a plate of food

Mr Gibbons was found in Iris Mews with stab wounds and died at the scene despite efforts by paramedics

James Gibbons (pictured with his family), known locally as Gibbo, was stabbed on an estate that locals call ‘Alcatraz’ in Laindon, Essex, at around 9.30pm on Sunday May 2

Self-employed plumber James ‘Gibbo’ Gibbons was discovered with ‘multiple stab wounds’ as paramedics rushed to save him after he was attacked by a group of teenagers who had harassed a homeless man. 

The plumber known locally as ‘Gibbo’, was stabbed on an estate that locals nicknamed ‘Alcatraz’ in Laindon, Essex, at around 9.30pm on Sunday, May 2.

Witnesses described a chaotic scene in Iris Mews that afternoon, after youths riding scooters had spent the day drinking and screaming abuse at residents.

Mr Gibbons was trying to chase the teenage gang away from a homeless man they were harassing when he was attacked. 

Christopher French had been living on the streets when he ‘befriended’ Mr Gibbons in ‘the days before his death’ and went to the house in the ‘hope of being given food’ from a barbecue.

Mr Gibbons chased off two youths who had been causing trouble outside his home and harassing Mr French, but was confronted by a larger group of youngsters just 10 minutes later. 

Mr French said a boy hit him with a brick and Mr Gibbons then chased the group down an alleyway, where he was fatally stabbed by 16-year-old Joshua Sparks. 

Sparks plunged a six-inch knife into Mr Gibbons four times, leaving him to die just yards from where the kitchen fitter had spent the afternoon with his family. 

James Gibbons brings out a Peppa Pig birthday cake for his twin daughters’ second birthday party, as they are held by his fiancée Victoria Billingham. He would be murdered later that day

The homeless man, Christopher French, had ‘befriended’ Mr Gibbons (pictured) in ‘the days before his death’ and went to the house in the ‘hope of being given food’ from a barbecue

He was a ‘hero’ who ‘stood up to bullies’: Emotional statement from victim’s mother 

James Gibbons  

James Gibbons’s heartbroken mother, Wendy Richards, paid an emotional tribute on the steps outside Chelmsford Crown Court today.

She said: ‘James was a loving son, a devoted father to his four children, a protective brother, uncle, cousin and a perfect partner and soul mate to his fiancée, Victoria.

‘James was a grafter, a real hardworking man, who wanted nothing else but to provide for his family. He, Vicky and their children had their whole future to look forward to. Unfortunately, this has been taken from them.

‘James did not like bullies, and he would always be the one who would protect and look out for vulnerable people. We are proud of him; he is our hero. We have set up Facebook and Instagram pages, called justice4jamesg.

‘We have set up these accounts in the hope that they will raise awareness and support others affected by knife crime and we urge the public to follow these pages to support our campaign.

‘And now it is time for us as a family to begin our grieving process, and finally lay James to rest in peace.’

She added:  ‘To the neighbours of James. To the police officers who were first on the scene. To the paramedics and ambulance crew. I know you all tried your hardest to save James’ life that night. We now know that there was nothing that could be done to save him.

‘To the Essex Police investigation team, of which there were many officers who worked quickly and tirelessly in getting the evidence and witnesses together.

‘To the prosecution team, for the hard work and hours you have put in to ensure that justice has been done today.

‘To our liaison officers, who have been our support and contact throughout this devastating time. And to victim support, we thank you all. ‘

The jury heard how Mr Gibbons then came back ‘flapping his arms’ before lifting his top up to reveal he had been stabbed before falling backwards.

The post mortem results led pathologists to estimate the blade used to stab Mr Gibbons was about six inches long.

The weapon used to kill Mr Gibbons has never been found.

Hours after the brutal killing the teen tearfully called his girlfriend and during a 43-minute call he said ‘a man has been stabbed, I think he’s dead’.

In another message to a friend, he declared he had ‘ducked up’ – which was auto-corrected from ‘f***ed up’.

A jury previously heard how Sparks boasted of how he was going to kill more people just hours after attacking Mr Gibbons. 

One friend, who cannot be named due to her age, asked the teenager if it was true that he’d stabbed Mr Gibbons.

‘Yeah, I did. I don’t care I’m a psychopath’, he reportedly said. 

Another witness alleged that the defendant had later titled a Snapchat story with the title ‘I just killed a man and I’ll do it again’. 

Sparks had discussed the prospect of going to prison with his girlfriend in the hours after the murder, and that in another phone call to a friend, he said he had ‘chinged’ – or stabbed – someone 25 times.  

Speaking after the jury returned its verdict last month, Essex Police Senior Investigating Officer DCI Louise Metcalfe said: ‘Today I am proud to say that we have achieved justice for James and for his family. My team have worked tirelessly on this investigation.

‘However, I know today’s verdict is little consolation for the loss of a beloved dad, partner, son, brother and uncle and nothing can bring James back.

‘And more than anything, today our thoughts are with James’ family. 

‘They have carried themselves with dignity throughout the investigation and throughout the trial.

‘The teenager convicted of murder used a variety of excuses to aid his defence, including claiming that he was scared of James so had brought a knife to the scene for his own protection.

‘James was not the aggressor. He had tragically become involved in a confrontation while defending another man and lost his life. 

‘That day, he had simply been celebrating his twin daughters’ birthday with friends and family.

‘Today is not a day to celebrate but I do hope this verdict provides some comfort to James’ family and they begin to move forward after their tragic loss.’

 

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