17-year jail term for teenager who carried out UK's first acid killing

A teenager has been jailed for 17 years for the first acid killing in the UK.

Xeneral Webster, 19, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Joanne Rand part way through his trial in April at Reading Crown Court.

He had armed himself with a corrosive substance, which was knocked from his hand by another male from whom he was trying to get a bicycle, the court heard.

Ms Rand, a 47-year-old carer for dementia patients, was hit with the high-strength sulphuric acid on June 3 last year as she sat on a bench in Frogmoor, High Wycombe, after visiting her daughter's grave.

Joanne Rand murder
Family handout photo issued by Thames Valley Police of Joanne Rand (right) with her daughter Katie Pitwell (Thames Valley Police/PA)

The court heard she screamed in pain and ran to a nearby branch of KFC to splash water over herself.

She was treated and briefly released from hospital after suffering up to 5% burns on her body.

But the mother-of-three died 11 days later from multiple organ failure after contracting septicaemia due to the burns.

Webster, of Banstead Court, Westway, west London, also pleaded guilty to possessing an offensive weapon, namely acid, and affray, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.

Sentencing him Judge Angela Morris said: "You and your actions bear the responsibility for her (Ms Rand's) tragic demise."

Joanne Rand murder
Xeneral Webster received a 17-year prison term (Thames Valley Police/PA)

Referring to his carrying of a corrosive substance on April 19 2017, she added: "The fact remains, you had this substance with you in a public place and you cannot have failed to realise the significant harm its contents would have caused to others had it been released.

"Because it is a liquid it is all the more likely to be indiscriminate in its spread."

Judge Morris said she had concluded that Webster posed a risk to the public and as well as 17 years in custody gave him an extended licence period of three years.

Talking about Ms Rand she continued: "The cost of your actions were incalculable and irreparable for her family and friends and there is no sentence which this court can pass which can replace the value of her life."

Webster was also sentenced for two counts of possessing an offensive weapon, namely a samurai sword and ammonia, and criminal damage, and making threats to kill relating to a separate incident to which he pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

He had previously been attacked with acid himself, and had permanent scarring from where the liquid burned him.

Joanne Rand murder
Xeneral Webster riding away from the scene of the acid attack (Thames Valley Police/PA)

Prosecutor Lesley Bates said: "There is much public concern about carrying knives and more recently about the escalation of the use of acid on the streets by young people."

Ms Rand worked at the Sir Aubrey Ward care home in Marlow and was described as "hard-working and passionate about her job" in a tribute issued by her family in October.

Her family have since called for tough sentences for people carrying acid.

Ms Rand's daughter Katie Pitwell, 18, said: "I think the buying of acid needs to be restricted but also if someone is carrying it there should be tougher sentences because most of the time they do intend to use it for harm."

She added: "He went out with the intention of hurting someone and it's an innocent person that got hurt in this situation.

"People need to know that if they're carrying that type of stuff, it's going to hurt someone or kill someone."

Webster sat with his arms crossed and looked around the dock as Ms Rand's sisters read a victim impact statement.

Joanne Rand murder
Family handout photo issued by Thames Valley Police of Joanne Rand (Thames Valley Police/PA)

"All we have now is tears and upset. We have lost so much.

"There is a massive hole in our lives. It was a year in June since Jo died but it only feels like yesterday.

"None of us really know how to cope with this great sadness and pain we feel, it is so intense and it never really leaves us."

Rand was born in County Durham, the youngest of five sisters, and grew up in High Wycombe, where she lived for the rest of her life.

According to prosecutors, Webster's manslaughter conviction is the first acid killing in the UK.

Adrian Foster, from the CPS, said: "The consequences of Webster's actions serve as a tragic example.

"I hope his conviction and subsequent sentence will serve as a reminder that the full extent of the law will be used robustly against those who use acid as a weapon intending to maim, disfigure or cause the death of a victim."

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