On 16th December 2016, following a five week trial before Mr Justice Globe, Jason Thaxter was unanimously convicted of the murder of Thomas Groome, his mother’s long-term partner, and conspiring with his mother to prevent the lawful burial of Thomas Groome’s body.
On 19th December 2016 Jason Thaxter was sentenced to life imprisonment and must serve a minimum of 30 years before he may apply for release on life license.
In March 2015 Jason Thaxter’s mother, June Buttle, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in respect of her involvement in the killing of Thomas Groome, preventing the lawful burial of a corpse and fraud, and is currently serving a 16 year prison sentence.
The prosecution of Jason Thaxter was a formidable challenge, given that the deceased’s body has never been found and there was no forensic or eye witness evidence against the defendant. Instead the prosecution relied extensively on hearsay evidence; from the defendant’s ex-partner, to whom the defendant confessed in the hours after the murder, but was medically unfit to attend the trial, and from two Irish nationals to whom the defendant’s mother confessed both her own and the defendant’s involvement in Thomas Groome’s killing several years after the event, despite the defendant’s mother (who was also called to give evidence) denying having made the confessions.
The case also involved liaison with police forces in Portugal (where the deceased had moved shortly before his death) and Ireland and the Crown Prosecution Service worked closely with the Irish authorities under the mutual assistance regime to ensure, inter alia, that five witnesses resident in Ireland could give evidence using a live video-link from a courtroom in Dublin rather than travel to the UK.
Ian Mullarkey of KBW Chambers (led by Dafydd Enoch Q.C.) appeared as junior counsel for the prosecution and Stephen Littlewood of KBW Chambers acted as disclosure junior.