Stourbridge stabbing: Aaron Barley admits murder

A homeless man who turned on a family who befriended him has admitted murdering the mother and her 13-year-old son.

Tracey and Pierce Wilkinson were stabbed to death at their home in Stourbridge, West Midlands.

The boy’s father, Peter, was seriously injured in the attack but survived.

Aaron Barley, 23, of no fixed address, admitted the killings at Birmingham Crown Court on what would have been the first day of his trial.

He previously admitted the attempted murder of Mr Wilkinson.

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The family first met Barley after Mrs Wilkinson decided “off-the-cuff” to help him when she saw him trying to keep warm in a cardboard box while she was out shopping.

She helped him find accommodation and arranged daily meals for him, while her husband went on to employ him as a labourer in April last year.

He left the company on “amicable terms” last September after he began to take drugs.

The night before the attack in March this year, Barley tried to break into the family home but found it locked, police said.

He waited in the garden shed until Mr Wilkinson took the family’s dog for a walk.

Once inside the house, he proceeded to launch a vicious knife attack.

Mrs Wilkinson, 50, was pronounced dead at the scene, while Pierce died after being taken to hospital.

Mr Wilkinson, 47, was stabbed six times and spent 11 days in hospital recovering from his wounds.

‘Knife in my stomach’

Barley fled the scene in the family’s Land Rover and was pursued by police before he crashed in a nearby road and was arrested.

Describing the attack, Mr Wilkinson said he was jumped on by Barley in their kitchen after he returned home from a morning dog walk.

He said Barley, clad entirely in black, was brandishing a big knife over his head.

As they grappled, leaving a trail of blood around the home, Mr Wilkinson was stabbed six times – twice in the face, twice in the abdomen and twice in the back.

Mr Wilkinson told reporters: “I said to him, after he’d stabbed me, ‘Aaron we tried to help you’ and he stuck the knife into my stomach and said ‘die you bastard’.”

The company director managed to contact emergency services, and was found in the garden of the family home with facial lacerations and deep stab wounds.

He said he remembered telling a paramedic to go into the house. He then heard them say “one deceased and one in cardiac arrest”.

“I knew at that point that I had most likely lost Tracey and Pierce,” he said.

The couple’s daughter Lydia, 18, was away at Bristol University at the time.

She said she was warned to expect the worst and when she saw her father hooked up to “countless machines” she doubted he would survive.

When he did eventually regain consciousness, Mr Wilkinson did not know his wife was dead and was unaware his daughter had been to the morgue to identify her mother and brother.

Both the family and police said they did not know what Barley’s motive was.

‘Mother I never had’

Mr Wilkinson said he had shared a “curry and a couple of bottles of beer” with Barley about a month before the attack.

“The next time I saw him he was sticking a knife into my shoulder,” he said.

He said Barley had joined the family on Christmas Day last year and he wrote a card to his wife that said ‘To the mother that I never had’.

“My wife was very caring and he treated her a bit like a second mother,” he added.

He suggested that Barley, whose parents died when he was young, knew his life was “going bad ways” and wanted to take it out on the people that had “cared and looked after him”.

Det Supt Tom Chisholm said Barley has remained uncooperative while in custody and given officers no reason for the “horrific attack”.

Describing the “random” murders as the most shocking he had dealt with, the veteran detective added: “There is usually a build-up or a motive or a grudge of something, but this one is just very random.”

The court also heard that psychiatric reports found no evidence of diminished responsibility.

Mr Wilkinson and Lydia have now moved back into the family home and said they have been “astounded” by the support they have received.

Ms Wilkinson described her mother as a “stunning” woman with a “beautiful personality”.

“To have my best friend taken from me in life at such a young age is a hardship I would never wish on anyone,” she said.

“Because it has to be the most awful experience. Especially when something happens… I can’t ring her up any more.”

She said her brother was “handsome, funny, clever” and made friends with everybody around him.

“My mum and brother were just the iconic mother/son relationship,” she said.

Barley will be sentenced on Wednesday.

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