Xeneral Webster, 19, was on trial for the murder of 47-year-old Joanne Rand, a dementia nurse, after she was covered in a very strong acid.
Yesterday – a week into the trial – he admitted to manslaughter after arming himself with the substance he had intended to use to injure another man.
Mrs Rand died from blood poisoning 11 days after running screaming in pain to a nearby KFC restaurant in an attempt to douse herself in water in the English town of High Wycombe.
How it happened
Webster, from west London, had travelled to High Wycombe to confront Saqib Hussain over a drugs dispute. Upon finding Mr Hussain, the acid bottle was taken out of a satchel slung around Webster’s chest with the lid already having been removed, before he pointed it in the intended victim’s direction. Hussain then knocked it out of Webster’s hand and it was kicked away.
Nurse Rand was sitting on a bench after visiting the grave of her daughter who died in a car accident, when the chemical ammonia was splashed onto her hair, face, arms and feet. She was sat some distance away from the combat.
Mrs Rand died in a specialist burns unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital 11 days after the incident in High Wycombe, on June 3 last year, after burns from the sulphuric acid became infected, causing multiple organs to fail from sepsis.
Alison Hunter, the prosecutor, noted: ‘Joanne Rand was sitting at a bench at about 4.30pm to 4.45pm when she felt something hit her on her right shin.’ ‘She saw a white bottle holding a yellow liquid. Her hair was wet and her face was burning. She then ran into the KFC restaurant behind her and doused herself with water before calling 999.’
Hunter added: ‘Dr Tina Lovelock confirmed the PH of the Sulphuric Acid was minus two. This is typical of a very strong acid, very corrosive and can cause severe progressive burns to the skin.’ ‘Mrs Rand’s trousers and blouse showed significant damage, with white stains across the front and a number of rips and holes.’
The jury heard that this was not the first time Webster had armed himself with the corrosive liquid and that he himself had been left scarred by an acid being thrown over him. A vicious cycle.
Detective Constable Aamer Khan from the Metropolitan Police, who had to wear protective gloves due to the danger still posed by the evidence, presented the 500ml bottle, which had contained the acid, to the jury from a safe distance.
The jury was presented with CCTV footage which showed Webster wearing a satchel containing the bottle of ammonia that was involved in the confrontation which led to nurse Rand’s death.
After months of trials – yesterday, he changed his pleas to admit manslaughter, possession of an offensive weapon – acid, and affray in relation to the High Wycombe incident.
He will also be sentenced in June in relation to another attack in London on April 19, last year, where he admitted to possession of an offensive weapon, ammonia again, a sword, and criminal damage.
Adrian Foster, from the CPS: ‘Joanne Rand was not the intended victim of the attack but the prosecution was brought on the basis that by producing an open bottle of acid and raising it to the face of another man, Xeneral Webster intended to cause that individual really serious harm.
‘The man fighting with Webster acted reasonably, in the circumstances, by deflecting the bottle away. Webster was responsible for the death of Joanne and had he not planned to hurt the intended victim, nurse Joanne would still be alive today. ‘We know that nothing will bring Joanne back to her family and friends, but we hope today’s conviction brings them at least a small sense that justice has been done.’