A businessman jailed for murder in 2001 has slammed the sentences handed down to three people in the horrific Flatts Lane body case.
Tommy Harrison was found guilty of attempting to force witnesses in a murder trial to alter their evidence. He was initially given a ten-year sentence, but it was later reduced on appeal.
His conviction related to the August 2001 murder of Kalvant Singh, the innocent victim of an underworld turf war, who was dragged from his bed before being thrown out of the window of a house in Errol Street, in Middlesbrough. Tommy Harrison’s late son Lee was among those convicted of the market trader’s murder.
Read more: Five nearly 50-year prison sentences in the Tomasz Dembler case
The case bears some similarities to the horrific death of Tomasz Dembler nearly 20 years later. The father of a Polish child was dragged from his bed in a house in Middlesbrough, then beaten and beaten to death.
In a ‘chilling’ cover-up, his hands were cut off and his body dumped in a forest near Flatts Lane Country Park in Normanby. Earlier this month, Rafal Chmielewski and Zbigniew Pawlowski were sentenced to 17.5 years extended sentences for manslaughter.
Their co-defendants, Monika Solerska, Adam Czerwinski and Tomasz Reczycki, have admitted perverting the course of justice – in relation to helping to cover up Mr Dembler’s death and the burial of his body – and they were convicted to terms of five and a half years, respectively five years and three and a half years.
Tommy Harrison told Teesside Live he had followed the case and criticized the courts for allowing defendants to change their pleas six weeks into the trial. And he also noted the “disparity” in the sentences handed down for the three who admitted perverting the course of justice in Mr Dembler’s investigation, compared to his own prison sentence in 2005.
“I can’t believe, and I study the law, what happened in this case,” he said. “How could they do this six weeks into the trial? How could they accept a guilty plea for the less serious charge?
“And one given five and a half, one five and the other three and a half? They should have been ten at least.
“It’s not fair to the family – it’s not justice. All of his ribs were broken, his back was broken and his hands were chopped off.”
Tommy, who is now 80, was 63 when he was jailed at Teesside Crown Court by Middlesbrough record keeper Judge Peter Fox QC. He appealed the sentence and it was later reduced to six years.
He said: “They got those sentences, how could Fox have given me ten? The disparity in sentencing in these two cases is a disgrace.
“I lost everything I had because of this case, I lost my £700,000 property, my homes, my relationship…”
Thomas Petch and George Coleman were jailed for life for Mr Singh’s murder and Jonathan Crossling was sentenced to 18 years after admitting manslaughter. Tommy’s son, Lee Harrison, who was extradited from Jamaica to stand trial, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was jailed for nine years in November 2004.
Tommy was convicted the following year and Judge Peter Fox told him the sentence for his part in the plot was designed to ‘loosen the grip’ he held on people and act as a warning to others considering the ‘intimidation. Tommy’s accomplice John ‘Buster’ Atkinson was also jailed for four years
The court heard that Atkinson had threatened a witness during Lee Harrison’s trial in an attempt to get him to change his testimony, while Tommy was also caught on CCTV handing over money to the same witness.
Tommy told Teesside he still maintains he gave the witness money for a bracelet she was trying to sell him to buy heroin and said he believed he was set up .
At the time of the sentencing, Middlesbrough District Commander Superintendent Mark Braithwaite said: “These sentencing completes the final chapter in what has been one of the longest and most complex investigations by police in Cleveland.”
Tommy shared his thoughts on both cases as the anniversary of his son’s death approaches. Lee died six years ago in Lebanon in a case that remains shrouded in mystery.
An inquest held at Teesside Magistrates’ Court heard Lee had contacted his father and friends in the days before his death and claimed the ‘powerful family’ hosting him were planning to ‘bring him in’.
Lee was a well-known Teesside who performed as Hooligan X and drew crowds to Middlesbrough clubs including Havana and Arena in the 1990s.
He was only 50 when he died in April 2016. Lee’s half-brother Andrew told an inquest that Lee said he had traveled to Lebanon to settle a “deal commercial involving cannabis and MDMA”. To this day, Tommy remains convinced that his son was murdered after receiving alarming messages in the days leading up to Lee’s death.
“I said come back straight away, there is something wrong. But they took his passport when they stopped him at the airport and said they thought he was a terrorist,” Tommy said.
“But then they brought him back to the same place. He called me and said, ‘Get my blood checked dad, I’m sure they’re trying to get me in’. I know that my son was murdered.”
Following Lee’s death, his devastated family paid tribute to the cherished son, father and grandfather who “were loved by everyone.” Lee had a colorful life – often rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous boxers, world champions, television stars and music icons – and traveled the world.
On the day the news of his death broke, Tommy said he received 1,000 messages of shock and sympathy on his phone.