Nathan Braim, aged 20, of Broadwaters Avenue, Thame, was convicted by unanimous jury verdict last Thursday (18/2) of murder, conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm with intent and possession of an offensive weapon following a trial lasting seven weeks at Oxford Crown Court.
Benjamin Eyles, aged 19, of Monks Hollow, Marlow Bottom, was cleared of murder, but was found guilty by unanimous jury verdict of manslaughter and conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm with intent.
In today’s sentencing hearing at the same court, Braim was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 19 years.
Eyles was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment.
The convictions of Braim and Eyles related to two incidents in July last year, the second of which, on 22 July, resulted in the death of Mr Harling, who was 19-years-old.
At around 7.05pm on 22 July, Mr Harling was found in an upturned Volkswagen Polo in Chinnor Road, Thame, with serious injuries.
This was initially believed to have been a road traffic collision, but Mr Harling was found to have sustained a knife wound to the chest, which had been caused by Braim in an altercation just moments earlier.
Four days prior to the incident that led to Mr Harling’s death, Braim and Eyles had been looking for their victim in Elms Park, Thame, arriving at the park armed with long poles, and intending to cause him serious injuries.
They failed to locate Mr Harling on that occasion, and did not see him again until the night that he died.
Braim and Eyles were both 19-years-old at the time and were close friends, and Eyles was involved in the supply of drugs.
After failing to locate Mr Harling on 18 July, Braim and Eyles were together in Thame four days later, when they spotted Mr Harling in his Volkswagen Polo.
On more than one occasion, they drove past Mr Harling, and at around 7pm, a violent altercation occurred in Cotmore Close between Mr Harling, Braim and Eyles.
During this short, but frenzied altercation, which lasted less than one minute, Mr Harling was stabbed in the chest by Braim.
This injury did not cause Mr Harling to collapse straight away, and he ran back to his car to try to make his escape.
Braim ran up to Mr Harling’s car, stamping on the rear windscreen, causing it to shatter, before Mr Harling drove away into Essex Road and onto Chinnor Road.
Tragically, the injury that Mr Harling had sustained was very serious, and he quickly began to feel unwell, losing control of his car in Chinnor Road, before colliding with parked vehicles and overturning onto the roof.
An ambulance was called, and members of the public also tried in vain to save Mr Harling’s life, but despite their best efforts, tragically, Mr Harling died at the scene.
A Home Office post-mortem examination concluded the cause of Mr Harling’s death to be a stab wound to the chest.
Braim was subsequently charged with murder on 26 July 2020 and conspiring with Eyles to commit GBH with intent on 9 October. He was also charged with possession of an offensive weapon in a public place.
Eyles was charged with murder and conspiring to commit GBH with intent on 29 September.
Following a trial, the jury convicted both Braim and Eyles in connection with Mr Harling’s death, Braim convicted of murder and Eyles the alternative count of manslaughter.
Senior Investigating Officer Detective Inspector Mike Roddy, of Thames Valley Police’s Major Crime Unit, said: “Braim and Eyles have now been sentenced to significant terms of imprisonment as a direct result of their actions both on 18 July and 22 July.
“This tragic incident resulted in the needless and senseless death of Josh Harling, a young man with his whole life ahead of him.
“Neither defendant has ever taken any responsibility for their actions that night of 22 July.
“Indeed Braim refused to co-operate with police at any stage, and has shown no remorse whatsoever.
“Eyles answered most of the questions officers put to him, but his account was often inconsistent and changed regularly, seemingly in a bid to evade justice, and the jury did not believe that he was telling the truth, and subsequently found him guilty of manslaughter.
“Their verdict was that Braim murdered Josh and Eyles, although not responsible for the fatal blow, was complicit in Mr Harling’s death and helped Braim to dispose of the weapon that had been used.
“We will probably never fully understand the reasons for the altercation on 22 July, nor the incident four days earlier in Elms Park. Braim and Eyles have never offered an explanation, and they will now both serve long prison sentences.
“Whatever the reasons, which only they will know, there was absolutely no justification for the violence that met Josh that night.
“Indeed, the very fact that Braim and Eyles had previously conspired with one another to cause Josh significant injury four days earlier shows that this was in no way a random attack, and was intended to cause him significant harm.
“There was clearly a background of animosity between two groups in Thame and this animosity was surrounding drug rivalries.
“But that can clearly be no excuse for the behaviour of Braim and Eyles. The violence seen that night was totally unacceptable.
“Josh’s family have had to endure an extremely difficult seven months of anguish.
“From the night they were first informed of Josh’s death, throughout our investigation, and to this trial and its conclusion, they have shown tremendous dignity, patience and bravery.
“To lose Josh has caused all of his family unimaginable suffering, and I hope that the fact that we have brought his killers to justice will serve as some form of solace.
“On behalf of myself, my investigation team and the whole of Thames Valley Police, I would like to again offer my sincere condolences.”
Detective Chief Inspector Dave Horsburgh, Head of Crime for the South Oxfordshire & Vale of White Horse Local Policing Area, said: “This tragic incident shocked the community of Thame. This case highlights the dangers of being involved in the supply or consumption of drugs in the Thames Valley and across the country.
“This also highlights the serious risks that are involved in carrying any type of weapon.
“The simple fact is, if you carry a knife, you are putting yourself and others in danger.
“Thames Valley Police have a dedicated Violence Reduction Unit, which offers a mentoring scheme that supports young people who are risk or are currently within the criminal justice system.
“We understand as a force that we cannot fight serious violence and knife crime by enforcement only. We also need to educate, intervene and prevent crime in our communities.
“The local Thame community is a strong one, and one that will offer their support to Thames Valley Police to tackle such criminal activity.
“We will continue to work with our partners and our communities to stamp out violent crime of this nature.
“We would urge anybody who has any concerns or information that can help us to tackle knife crime to please report this to us.
“Our message is very clear to anybody who feels it is acceptable to carry a knife.
“It is never acceptable, in any circumstance. If you carry a knife, we will relentlessly pursue you, we will put you before a court, and you are likely to end up with a prison sentence.”
Nathan Braim, jailed for life with a minimum term of 19 years for murder, conspiracy to commit GBH with intent and possession of an offensive weapon
Benjamin Eyles, jailed for eight years for manslaughter and conspiracy to commit GBH with intent