Axeman who attacked two supervisors at Royston chemical firm Johnson Matthey sentenced to 20 years in prison for attempted murder
PUBLISHED: 13:00 02 March 2017 | UPDATED: 16:32 02 March 2017
A man who used an axe and a knife to attack two supervisors at Royston chemical firm Johnson Matthey has today been sentenced to 20 years in prison for attempted murder.
Peter Duffy, 54, of Elm Walk, had earlier pleaded guilty to attempted murder, wounding with intent and two counts of possession of an offensive weapon when he appeared at St Albans Crown Court.
The incident happened at Johnson Matthey, where Duffy worked for 21 years, on July 20 last year.
The court heard how Duffy took an axe from his garden shed and a knife from his kitchen – putting them in a bag.
He then took the bag to his workplace in Orchard Road, where he was due to start a nightshift after two weeks off sick.
He hid them briefly, before retrieving them and launching what the judge called a ‘determined and sustained attack.’
Before committing Duffy to prison, Judge Marie Catterson told the defendant that by the time he went to work that evening he had a conceived a profound dislike of the victims.
The judge said that Duffy referred to them as bullies in his police interview, but couldn’t give evidence of this.
Judge Catterson said: “Your sense of grievance against both men seemed to have been as irrational as it was deep seated.
“Even if your views were taken as face value, your actions were wholly out of any conceivable proportion.
“It seems you received a call from HR the previous day checking when you would be back into work, which irritated you as you thought one of the victims would have known date already. But that phone call seems to be enough to trigger a plan to kill both men.”
The judge said that Duffy had a conversation with his first victim, who is 57, when he got to work – before going to the car park to wait for him.
“You went to car park to find a suitable play to lie in wait for him. When he emerged, you approached and attacked him from behind with the axe. “However he became aware at the last minute by your shadow and put his arm up. He was hit on top of his head, there was a struggle and by great good fortune he managed to get hold of the axe and to arrest it from your grasp.
“Through that attack you were repeating I’m going to kill you, but it is the case that when you lost your weapon you stopped.
“Although the victim was bleeding and shouting for help you simply turned and got back into building, as you were to explain, you were thinking ‘I can’t hang about here because I’ve still got my part two to do’.”
Judge Catterson continued: “Once back inside the building you retrieved the kitchen knife and made your way to an office of almost entirely glass windows. You described the knife as having a nine inch blade.
“The second victim was working at his desk and, without warning, you entered and attacked him from behind – aiming for blood vessels in his neck as he tried to fight you off.”
The court heard by then how the first victim had raised the alarm, and Duffy was stopped and restrained by several men.
Of the second victim, who was 46 at the time, the judge said: “He recalled the sheer force you used. He is still at work off now, his memory and self-confidence have been badly affected. He has frightening nightmares and is physically exhausted.
“The impact on both these men has been significant. These offences were planned – you deliberately took with you two bladed weapons. You continued to put the second attack into effect after the first.”
The judge said how, after he was arrested, what Duffy said in the police interviews was ‘chilling’.
She then read excerpts from the interview transcripts where Duffy swore about the men and said: “I went to kill them and I failed. If I am released I’ll finish the job off.
“I feel sad and bad that I didn’t do the job properly, and I sincerely mean that.”
The judge said: “By the end of the interview you still maintained you were justified and had no regrets.
“The remorse, if any, was somewhat superficial. The remorse is in the situation of what you now find yourself in.”
The judge said if he is now experiencing genuine remorse it’s a good thing.
“There was significant planning,” Judge Catterson added.
“Looking at extremity of your behaviour and persistence, I have reached conclusion that you do pose serious risk to the public for violent offending.”
In mitigation, defence solicitor Neil Fitzgibbon told the court that Duffy had at the time perceived his victims as bullies – and that a combination of this, his health, and pressure from the firm to repeatedly provide doctors’ notes had led to the attack.
Mr Fitzgibbon said: “It was the catalyst to why he resorted to doing such a terrible thing.
“He has a great difficultly in being able to articulate his emotions, and he instructs me specifically that he’s very sorry for his actions.”
Judge Catterson sentenced him to 20 years behind bars, with an additional five years on licence when he is released for the attempted murder attack with the knife.
Duffy also got six years for wounding with intent – the charge referring to the axe attack and 12 months each for the two possessions of offensive weapons charges.