A gang of robbers, who killed one of their victims when they pushed him into a Manchester canal and left him to drown, have been jailed today.
Simon Brass, 40, was heard to twice shout 'I can’t swim' but three of the gang of five assailants calmly walked away and one later explained he did not help because he 'wasn’t getting wet'.
The youngest member of the group of thugs, who were trying to steal Mr Brass's mobile phone, was just 14 at the time of the incident.
Jailed: Paul Creedy, 20, left, and Kieron Murray, 22, right, were sentenced to 10 years in prison for their part in the death of Simon Brass who was pushed into a Manchester canal and left to drown after a failed robbery
Paul Creedy, 20, Kieron Murray, 22, and Leah Garner, 21, were old jailed for 10 years at Manchester Crown Court today.
Jack Smith, 19, will serve nine years in a young offender's institute.
The boy, who is now 15 and cannot be named for legal reasons, was sentenced to five years and eight months in a young offender's institute.
All had pleaded guilty to manslaughter at previous hearings.
Sentencing, Judge Clement Goldstone QC said: 'Simon Brass was pushed into the canal when efforts to rob him proved unsuccessful and who you left to die, knowing he could not swim.
'This was not wanton hooliganism or a prank gone wrong. He was the intended victim of a robbery.'
The court had heard that Mr Brass had been targeted in a known spot for 'cruising' around the towpaths near to Manchester’s Canal Street gay village.
The hearing was told that the 'dark, dangerous' surrounding underpasses were frequented by gay men who looked for casual sexual encounters and who in turn were preyed upon by robbers who were aware their victims would be unlikely to complain to the police.
Sentenced: Jack Smith, left, will spend the next nine years in a young offender's institute, while Leah Garner, right, was jailed for 10 years
Earlier in the night another victim had been robbed and a good Samaritan who came to his aid was pushed in the canal before the group turned their attention to Mr Brass.
The body of Mr Brass, from Salford and originally from the Newcastle area, was recovered four days later from the canal.
All members of the gang had varying roles in a series of four robberies that took place on the towpath of the Rochdale Canal in the early hours of June 5 last year, said prosecutor Mark Kellet.
'The fact that Mr Brass had hidden his phone clearly frustrated the five defendants in their attempt to rob him.'
Prosecutor Mark Kellet
Creedy and Murray approached the first victim at about 1.10am and pretended to be police officers looking for drugs as they searched his pockets and took a packet of cigarettes.
Three men came to his assistance but Creedy and Murray turned on two of them.
They repeatedly stamped on the head of one and pushed the other into the canal.
Creedy attempted to kick one of the Samaritan’s hands from the edge of the bank as he struggled to get out before the other defendants joined in pursuing him on foot where eventually the man fell to the floor and was kicked unconscious.
The five defendants left the scene but returned about 90 minutes later where they came across Mr Brass.
Mr Kellet said: 'Exactly what happened that led to the death of Simon Brass is not clear. However the Crown says that it can be properly inferred that he was thrown or pushed into the canal.
Gay scene: Mr Brass was killed at a notorious 'cruising' spot close to Manchester's Canal Street, pictured
'When Simon Brass’s body was recovered his iPhone was found in his sock.
'He was clearly alert to the fact that men looking for sexual encounters at the canal locks are frequently robbed of their mobile telephones.
'The fact that he had hidden his phone clearly frustrated the five defendants in their attempt to rob him.'
'This was not wanton hooliganism or a prank gone wrong. Mr Brass was the intended victim of a robbery.'
Judge Clement Goldstone QC
Barely two minutes later along the towpath, another man was robbed of his mobile phone by Creedy, Murray and the 15-year-old.
They were arrested shortly afterwards when they attempted to sell the phone in two nearby takeaways.
Following those arrests, CCTV footage was studied which led to the arrests of Garner and Smith.
Creedy and Murray, each received 10-year sentences and will be on extended licence for three years on release.
Garner, was also jailed for 10 years and Smith, will serve nine years in a Young Offenders Institute.
The youth was detained for five years and eight months.
Judge Goldstone commented that Smith’s comment to a friend about not 'getting wet' was 'callous in the extreme'.
Hearing: All five members of the gang were jailed at Manchester Crown Court
In a statement issued after sentencing, Detective Sergeant Derek Houston said: 'Mr Brass’s life was tragically cut short when this group decided he was the perfect target for a robbery.
'Not at one point did they consider his safety having failed to steal anything from him they pushed him into the canal and the actions they took were reckless.
'Mr Brass’s family have been left with a gap in their lives that will never be filled.
'They will have to live with the fact that their time together was cut drastically short thanks to the selfish act of five callous individuals.
'This has been a painstaking investigation that involved over 1,000 hours of CCTV being studied from over 100 cameras and the smallest of details being analysed.
'I hope Mr Brass’s family and friends can take some comfort knowing that the people responsible for his untimely death are now being punished for what they did.'
Members of the victim’s family attended today’s sentencing.
In a victim impact statement read out in the court they said they had all 'suffered from this tragedy'.
Both the health of Mr Brass’s father, Richard, and stepmother, Hilda, had deteriorated since his death, the court heard.
The statement continued: 'As a family we are all very close. Simon was a vital link. He regularly returned home for family events and holidays.'
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