Boys found guilty over stoning death..UK

Five boys, one aged 12, sobbed at the Old Bailey today after they were found guilty of killing a pensioner who they spat at and pelted with stones.

Ernest Norton suffered a heart attack and died after collapsing at outdoor tennis courts in Erith, Kent, in February last year.

The 67-year-old had been playing cricket with his 17-year-old son, James, at the Erith leisure centre when a jeering mob of 15 youths gathered at the fence and began shouting insults.

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The boys - part of a gang called the New Estate, which had its own website - began hurling stones and pieces of wood at Mr Norton. He was hit on the temple and one rock fractured his cheekbone before he collapsed with a heart attack.

James ran to the leisure centre to fetch his mother, Linda, and Mr Norton lay unconscious as she held his hand and called his name. He was pronounced dead in an ambulance on the way to hospital.

"We were just keeping ourselves to ourselves," James told the trial. "It just seemed they wanted to pick on someone."

Mrs Norton described how her husband, a former engineering draughtsman, had looked after the couple's children full time since losing his job 25 years ago.

The five boys were today found guilty of manslaughter and violent disorder.

"This was a completely unnecessary, pointless and random attack by these five defendants," David Fisher QC, prosecuting, told the jury.

"They are jointly responsible for this attack and jointly responsible for his death. The stress and trauma of the abuse and physical attack would make him vulnerable to a physical attack."

Mr Fisher said the age of the five was "no defence". "They were quite old enough to know that to abuse Ernest Norton and his son was wrong, and that to throw stones and pieces of wood at them was wrong," he added.

Mr Norton lived with his wife and son in Erith. He had undergone a triple heart bypass operation in 1977, but had a "fit and active lifestyle", Mr Fisher said.

The only defendant to give evidence during the trial, a boy aged 14, admitted he had spat at Mr Norton and that it was "stupid", "revolting" and "appalling".

Speaking outside the Old Bailey today, a spokesman for the Metropolitan police said the verdicts should send a message that anti-social behaviour can have "such serious consequences".

The defendants, two brothers aged 12 and 13, a boy aged 13 and two 14-year-olds, had sat in the dock with their parents during the month-long trial.

The five were remanded on bail to October 19, when they will be sentenced.

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