Homophobic couple jailed for torturing gay magistrate in his own home and forcing fire poker down his throat
A couple who tortured late magistrate Vince McMahan in a violent homophobic attack have been jailed for a total of nearly six years.
Stuart Holland and his partner Joanna Bath were both found guilty of actual bodily harm and theft after beating McMahan, a former city councillor, to the ground in his Canterbury, Kent, residence in March 2019.
After 25 years in the closet, McMahan had recently come out in a heartfelt newspaper interview with the Kentish Gazette, explaining how suffering a heart attack in a queer bar made him realise he “couldn’t live a lie anymore” in June 2018.
But his triumphant coming out ignited fury from Holland, who’d worked as a carpenter for McMahan, and Bath. The pair visited his home, where they tortured him in an attack that left him too scared to leave the house.
In a Monday (12 April) sentencing at the Canterbury Crown Court, Holland was handed three years for actual bodily harm and theft, the KentOnline reported.
Bath was given 27 months in jail for the same offences alongside an additional three years in jail for previous drugs and shoplifting offences which will be served consecutively.
She had pleaded guilty earlier to supplying Class A drugs, and her barrister said that she was addicted to drugs at the time of the attack.
Bath, her barrister stressed, had played a “lesser role” in the incident.
The intense hostility of the attack pushed the punishment “above the sentencing guidelines”, judge James O’Mohony said at sentencing.
He explained that the couple humiliating and torturing the victim, abusing the trust he once had in them, created a “clean sweep of every box” for accountability.
“Mr McMahan tried to dial 999 to get help but that was prevented by Joanne Bath snatching the phone and preventing him from doing so,” O’Mahony described.
“Stuart Holland then grabbed Mr MacMahan [and] inserted the poker into his mouth causing him to gag.”
Holland’s rap sheet of violent offences daring back to 1996 – which ranged from assaulting emergency workers to affray – was an aggravating feature for the sentence, O’Mahony said.
What happened to Vince McMahan?
After knocking on his door at 10:30pm, Stuart Holland and Joanna Bath were invited in by Vince McMahan. Sitting in his living room, the then 58-year-old had no idea of the agony that was to come.
“Stuart Holland made a comment about Vincent McMahan’s sexuality,” prosecutor James Ross said at an earlier hearing.
While calling him “queer” and a “pervert”, Holland struck McMahan with a fire-poker.
“Holland used that poker to begin striking Mr McMahan’s right leg a few times”, Ross added. Bath then pulled out a cosh from her handbag and battered his head.
As he desperately tried to escape, the couple jammed a fire-poker down his throat in what prosecutors described as “gratuitous degradation”.
Fear seized the father-of-three after the attack. McMahan felt unable to leave his home, dying 18 months later of an unrelated heart condition.
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After the harrowing attack, McMahan phoned the police and said: “I am shaken by this incident because I wouldn’t expect to be attacked in my own home.
“I’m also upset about being targeted and attacked because of my sexuality.
“This incident has made me very wary to leave my address in case I bump into [the couple] in the street.”
McMahan’s wallet – which contained his magistrate’s identification – was discovered in Bath’s bin. Upon arrest, the court heard that Bath told police: “I’m so sorry it went too far, nobody was meant to get hurt.”
Holland was found by officers hiding in his loft.