Judge names boy, 16, jailed for killing dad, 34, who tried to protect homeless man

Joshuah Sparks was today named as the teenage killer of dad-of-four James Gibbons
Joshuah Sparks was today named as the teenage killer of dad-of-four James Gibbons

A teenage boy who stabbed a father-of-four to death on the day of his twin daughters’ second birthday party has been named as he was jailed for murder.

Joshuah Sparks, 16, stabbed James Gibbons four times after the 34-year-old challenged a gang of teenagers who were harassing a homeless man, Chelmsford Crown Court heard.

Gibbons gave food from the party to homeless Chris French outside his home in Laindon, Essex, on 2 May this year.

A gang of teenagers then tried to steal the food from French and Gibbons confronted them.

Joshuah Sparks was named by a judge after a successful appeal by local media outlets against a ruling protecting his identity. (Essex Police)
Joshuah Sparks was named by a judge after a successful appeal by local media outlets against a ruling protecting his identity. (Essex Police)

Chelmsford Crown Court heard Gibbons chased them and was stabbed four times by Sparks, who until now could not be named due to his age.

Sparks had claimed he was acting in self-defence and denied murder, but was found guilty by a majority verdict of 10 to two following a trial.

Gibbons’ family said in a statement issued by police: “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.”

James Gibbons was stabbed to death hours after he'd celebrated the birthdays of his twin daughters. (PA)
James Gibbons was stabbed to death hours after he'd celebrated the birthdays of his twin daughters. (PA)

They described the dad as “a grafter, a real hardworking man, who wanted nothing else but to provide for his family”, adding: “He, (his partner) Vicky and their children had their whole future to look forward to."

Simon Taylor QC, prosecuting, told jurors that Gibbons was just yards from his home when the defendant stabbed him four times on 2 May this year.

His partner, Victoria Billingham, said he left their twin daughters’ birthday barbecue to speak to homeless Christopher French outside.

“When he returned he told her there were a couple of 15-year-olds that were bullying Chris, taking advantage and eating his food,” said Taylor.

“He then said he was going to have another cigarette outside with French to make sure he was OK.”

Gibbons left the party to share some food with a local rough sleeper (PA)
Gibbons left the party to share some food with a local rough sleeper (PA)

She then heard a “loud thudding at the door”, was told to call an ambulance and saw her partner bleeding on the floor.

Essex Police said that in the hours after the murder, the teenage defendant admitted to the stabbing in a message in a Snapchat group, adding: “I don’t care, I’m a psychopath.”

Taylor said the defendant searched on the internet for “stabbing in Laindon” and “consequences of accidentally killing someone” in the early hours of 3 May.

He said a witness heard the defendant on the phone, saying: “I chinged him 25 times.”

“[He] was laughing as he said it,” said Taylor.

The teenager was jailed after a trial at Chelmsford Crown Court (Google Street View)
The teenager was jailed after a trial at Chelmsford Crown Court (Google Street View)

CCTV showed Gibbons surrounded by the gang just metres from his home before the attack.

“While it could be said James Gibbons was standing his ground and getting in the face of the youths, he was no threat to them and yet he died at (the defendant’s) hands,” said Taylor.

He said the boy ran off to get a weapon then came back and used it.

“Deliberately securing a weapon, then returning to the scene, then stabbing a man not once, not twice but four times, we say can only have been accompanied by an intent to cause really serious harm,” Taylor said.

The boy was found guilty by a majority verdict of 10 to two following the trial and sentenced to at least 13 years in custody.