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The 'apathetic' schoolboy who became a vicious killer

PUBLISHED: 06:54 27 November 2019 | UPDATED: 11:20 27 November 2019

Peter Bruton. PIC: Facebook.

Peter Bruton. PIC: Facebook.

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A woman who once went to school with a convicted killer said she was "not entirely shocked" he had been found guilty of murder.

Peter Bruton. PIC: Facebook.Peter Bruton. PIC: Facebook.

Peter Bruton, 27, had denied murdering James Greene, 39, at the victim's flat in Dolphin Grove, Norwich in June this year.

But a jury took just over two hours to find him guilty.

The 27-year-old woman, who did not want to be named, went to Framingham Earl High School with the killer, who she described as being "apathetic towards life".

Speaking just before Bruton was convicted of murder, the woman said: "I'm not entirely shocked. It seemed as though he was heading into the wrong crowd and was generally apathetic towards life."

Dolphin Grove. PIC: Peter Walsh.Dolphin Grove. PIC: Peter Walsh.

Recalling her memories of him at school, she said; "At school he was very disengaged with work and didn't give the impression of having any ambition.

"He would play up with teachers now and again.

"The field backed out into woods and there were a group of smokers who would sneak there in breaks and sometimes during classes to smoke and he was in that group.

"He wasn't particularly popular or well-known at school and was quiet with those who weren't in his circle.

James Greene. Photo: Norfolk policeJames Greene. Photo: Norfolk police

"He did, however, have a few friends and wasn't a complete loner."

It was Bruton's "mutual friendship", as he himself described it in court, with Mr Greene that was too have disastrous consequences for them both.

Bruton, who was unemployed, had known the victim since 2018 but had moved into Mr Greene's one-bedroom flat about a week before the fatal attack in June this year.

They had enjoyed "tatting", or upcycling goods like furniture, together and also shared an interest in taking class A drugs, which again was to prove more than significant as it was their craving for drugs that would have catastrophic consequences for them both.

Sergeant Mark Shepherd said he had listened to the concerns of residents in Dolphin Grove and would be deploying officers to the area. Photo: PoliceSergeant Mark Shepherd said he had listened to the concerns of residents in Dolphin Grove and would be deploying officers to the area. Photo: Police

Mr Greene took class A drugs, like cocaine and heroin, regularly.

At the time of the attack the door of his address was boarded up following previous police raids over drugs.

Mr Greene had no money and was "desperate for £10-worth of drugs".

On the day of the attack Mr Greene had hatched a plan, a "cheat" on Bruton that he would accuse his lodger of taking a £10 bag of crack cocaine from him.

Mr Greene would demand that Bruton pay him back either £10 or a bag of drugs or he was going to hit him with a bottle.

The victim had told his friend, Stuart Evans, this on a trip they had taken to the soup kitchen earlier in the evening of June 5 this year.

But Mr Evans did not want to be part of it and had tried to tell his friend it was not worth it but Mr Greene was "adamant".

It was to be at least the third occasion Mr Greene had tricked Bruton but there was no such thing as third time lucky for the victim after he executed his plan after getting back to the flat sometime after 9.30pm.

By the time armed police arrived at the flat having called by neighbours they entered to find Mr Greene's motionless body on the floor in the lounge and Bruton in the bathroom where he said he had been checking for injuries he thought he had sustained in the struggle.

Bruton was to tell the jury that he had "overpowered" Mr Greene, who he insisted was the aggressor, and strangled him for about a minute until he passed out.

When asked why he strangled Mr Greene, Bruton said that the victim was being "erratic" and "all that was going through my mind was that he's going to stab me or something".

Chillingly, Bruton told the prosecutor he could have stopped if he had wanted to, but he did not. That is because, as he told police in interview, he "wanted him dead" and no doubt would have started "hacking him up" and hanging him, as he also told officers, had police not arrived when they did.

'It was a death scream': neighbours heard fatal disturbance

On the fateful summer's evening when James Greene was attacked many people heard the disturbance which led to his death - although no-one saw it.

A number of people gave evidence during the trial of hearing "lots of banging" before a scream.

Shannon Kelly said the banging lasted for about a minute before there was a scream.

She said: "It sounded like someone was dying. It was a death scream. I've never heard anything like it except from on a film. It was really loud. It lasted a few seconds."

Another neighbour, Chloe Smith, said she heard banging and shouting before a cry for help, thene a second cry that sounded like he was "losing his breath".

A 55-year-old woman, who did not want to be named, recalled how she saw blue lights flashing outside before later looking out and seeing someone on the stretcher being taken to the ambulance.

She said the person "wasn't moving or anything".

The ordinary life of a killer

Killer Peter Bruton had lived a fairly ordinary life before the extraordinary events of this summer.

He was born in Norwich and brought up in Norfolk.

He said he got on well with his family, including his mother, who has attended court throughout the trial.

He went to Poringland Primary, Trowse Primary and Framingham Earl High School and left school having "failed" some exams.

He got a job but moved out and had been staying round friends when he was "sofa surfing".

Bruton also stayed in temporary accommodation at Vanguard Court, off Old Palace Road in Norwich for a while but came to live with James Greene, who he had met in 2018 through a friend.

He said they would go "tatting" together, meaning they collected things like furniture to up-cycle.

Bruton, who was injured in a motorbike accident about seven years ago, said they "mutually befriended each other" and took class A drugs, like cocaine, together.

'A nice guy: the victim

James Greene was originally from South Africa and still had an accent from that country.

He was unemployed and lived in a one-bedroom flat in Dolphin Grove where he was attacked.

A statement issued by his family following Mr Greene's death said they were "devastated and shocked" by his death.

A 55-year-old woman, who lived in the Dolphin Grove area but wanted to remain anonymous, said Mr Greene was a "nice guy".

She said: "I used to sit up there before I went to the shop and used to talk to him a bit.

"He just spoke to me and asked if I was all right. Once he sat down at the wall and talked to me - I think he sort of knew I was feeling a bit down that day.

"I just know he was a nice guy."

Killer's months of trying to frustrate court process

There were a number of days lost during the trial due to Peter Bruton failing to appear at court.

He tried to disrupt proceedings throughout the court process.

He did appear at Norwich Magistrates Court on June 8 after being charged with the murder of James Greene but then refused to leave his cell for his first appearance at Norwich Crown Court on June 11.

He also refused to leave his cell for a plea and directions hearing on July 30, prompting Judge David Goodin to order that he be produced 24 hours later.

He did appear on July 31 when he pleaded not guilty to murder.

But Bruton again refused to leave his cell for a court hearing on September 10.

On October 14 he was again was not present in court.

His barrister Ian James said he had been "refusing to cooperate" but that a mental health professional was due to see him.

On October 17 Bruton did appear in court to meet his barrister to discuss the case.

The trial got under way on November 11 but on November 14 Judge Stephen Holt was forced to halt the trial as Bruton was not in a position to appear in court as he had not received his anti-psychotic medication.

The court was told that Norwich Prison, where Bruton was being held during the trial, had failed to give him his medication over the past two days.

Addressing the jury, Judge Stephen Holt said: "He's just not fit to sit in the court and take everything in."

In fact it had emerged that while at prison Bruton got hold of a razor which he used to shave off his hair. But again on November 15 Bruton was not in the dock.

Addressing the jury, Judge Stephen Holt told them he was "very sorry" but there were still "a couple of question marks over the health of the defendant", adding "so I'm afraid we just cannot do anything further today".

On November 18 Bruton did appear, albeit via videolink from the prison, for the rest of the prosecution case.

He was also in court for the start of his defence case on November 20 but yet again failed to appear on the morning of November 21 when he was due to be cross examined by Peter Gair, prosecuting.

Judge Holt was told Bruton could be "put on the bus" to appear in court at 2pm on November 20 and said a "line in the sand" had now been drawn.

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