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Soldier jailed for kidnap and attempted murder of fellow serviceman

John Watson and James Dicks
John Watson and James Dicks

A soldier who kidnapped a fellow serviceman and love rival before attempting to kill him with cling film and a jab saw has been jailed.

John Watson, 35, ambushed James Dicks and forced the Household Cavalry trooper into the back of his car while threatening him with the weapon.

Mr Dicks, then 28, previously told Reading Crown Court the former Guardsman "hog-tied" him in the back of his car after lying in wait near Watson's wife Lynsey's Windsor home on May 4 last year.

Mr Dicks, who is based at Prince Harry's former barracks in Windsor, said Watson wrapped his head in cling film during the attack, which left him with stab and slash wounds.

The attack was halted when two police officers armed with Tasers arrived at the scene.

Watson was found guilty of attempted murder at the same court on January 19, following a retrial, and was convicted of kidnapping on October 21 at the initial trial.

He previously pleaded guilty to unlawfully having a knife in a public place.

Jailing him for 16 years with an extended licence period of three years, Judge Angela Morris, sitting at Reading Magistrates' Court, said: "It seems to me there are two John Watsons.

"The John Watson who was a devoted family man and the disciplined soldier who served his country with honour and bravery and then there is the other John Watson, the one who allowed himself to become consumed by anger, jealousy, rage and murderous intent over the course of February to May 2016."

Watson and Mr Dicks met in 2010 and had become friends when they were both were stationed at Combermere Barracks, near Windsor, in 2015.

Each was married at the time, living in Army accommodation, but by the end of the year their respective marriages had broken down.

 

Watson was transferred to Pirbright barracks, near Woking, and by the start of 2016, Mr Dicks and Mrs Watson began seeing each other - a tryst they tried to keep secret.

Neil Griffin, defending, said the father-of-two had been told to leave the family home on Christmas Eve 2015, eventually leaving on Boxing Day.

The defendant initially planned to commit suicide but did not go through with it and shortly afterwards found out about Mr Dicks' relationship with Mrs Watson.

The couple were said to have begun their relationship at around new year but Watson considered it a "betrayal", believing they had had an "affair".

Mr Griffin said: "He's lost everything and everyone he cared for but he does what he thinks is the best thing to do and he reports it to his Army superiors.

"He reports that to his superiors in the hope and trust they would do something about it, but the Army let John Watson down. In fact, it let both men down."

The Army had ordered Mr Dicks not to live in Mrs Watson's home, he added, but a senior officer later told Watson to "grow up, pull your socks up and get over it".

It was after the death of his foster mother in March that he began to plan the murder, Mr Griffin said.

"It's in those worst and lowest moments of John Watson's life ... That he by his own admission planned to to kill James Dicks," he said.

In his planning, he Googled the Moors Murders to see how to dispose of a body, as well as the sentences for murder, and later also ordered a workman to dig a grave near the barracks which he claimed was for his dog. He also prepared notes on message he would send on his own and Mr Dicks' phones suggesting the victim was "going away for a while".

The court previously heard threatening WhatsApp messages to Mr Dicks were found on his phone after his arrest, with one reading: "If I am going to do something you will only know when it has happened."

Mr Griffin said the attack was "totally out of character" for the churchgoing Watson, who had been born to drug-addicted parents and was taken into foster care at the age of 11.

After joining the Army at 18 and later serving in Afghanistan, where he "saw friends and colleagues wounded and killed", Watson married and settled down with the woman who would go on to be mother of his children in 2008.

Mr Griffin said: "He had described his family life, before this eruption of tragedy, as perfect."

A probation report said Watson had expressed "deep remorse" over the incident.

Mr Griffin added that the victim's fear that Watson still harbours resentment against him was "not true". In a personal statement recorded on February 1, Mr Dicks said: "I honestly believe he will not give up. He wants me out of the picture."

But Mr Griffin, reciting Watson's own words, said: "That's not true. I have given up - there's nothing to pursue. It's finished, it's all done now. The marriage is over and I want to put it behind me."

The court heard Mr Dicks and Mrs Watson were either expecting or had had a child together.

Judge Morris said a dispute about how close Watson and Mr Dicks were before the attack was not a factor in her sentencing.

She said: "Whether you were acquaintances or the best of friends before the events I am concerned with does not tip the scales in one direction or another.

"Some time around September 2015 you were experiencing problems with your marriage and you separated on Boxing Day.

"It is clear ... that the separation from your wife and children had a devastating and profound effect upon you but there is no evidence which has been placed before the court to demonstrate that Lynsey and James were conducting a relationship before your marriage ended.

"It may well be your perception of things which fuelled your anger and motivated you in your aim to kill him, but perception and reality are two different things."

Judge Morris added the jury had dismissed his claim that he had changed his mind about killing Mr Dicks on the morning of the attack, by virtue of the evidence that he had driven to Windsor at 6am, already made handcuffs out of the cable ties and put the back seats of his car down covered with a sheet.

But for members of the public calling police, Mr Dicks would have been dead, Judge Morris said.

She said: "You are the one who tried to wrap his head in cling film when he fought back in the second car park in an effort to escape and ultimately you are the one who was continuing to attack when the police eventually arrived on the scene thanks to the various members of the public who saw some or all of what you were doing.

"I have no doubt that had members of the public not acted as they did on the 4th May, you would have succeeded in your murderous plan and so it is to them that Mr Dicks owes a great debt of gratitude. Perhaps you do too."

The judge said she considered Watson "dangerous" to the public in light of the level of planning of the attack.

"I find that your thoughts and deeds through the months of February to May 2016 and the level of premeditation involved in these offences are of such a degree that I have come to the conclusion there is a significant risk to members of the public of serious harm," she said.

Watson, wearing a green HMP Woodhill-issue T-shirt and blue jeans, was handed a 19-year extended sentence, with 16 years in custody, for the attempted murder charge, and concurrent terms of four years for kidnap and six months for possession of a bladed article.