Harrogate man Daniel Ainsley sentenced to life in prison

A deranged drug addict has been jailed for life after stabbing his former flatmate to death in a vicious knife attack after apparently hearing voices in his head telling him to kill.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 2:36 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th November 2021, 2:13 pm
Daniel Ainsley murdered his former friend Mark Wolsey and has been told he will serve at least 21 years and three months in prison
Daniel Ainsley murdered his former friend Mark Wolsey and has been told he will serve at least 21 years and three months in prison

Daniel Ainsley, 24, launched the “brutal” attack after 48-year-old Mark Wolsey said he wanted him out of his flat in Harrogate.

Ainsley, an alcoholic and heavy drug user, stabbed the father-of-two repeatedly then stood over his blood-soaked body “until his last breath”, Leeds Crown Court heard.

He then dialled 999 and told a police operator that he had killed a “so-called friend”.

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Harrogate father of two Mark Wolsey was brutally murdered by the man he had welcomed into his own flat after he had become homeless

A neighbour was horrified to discover Mr Wolsey’s body with the hilt of an eight-inch chef’s knife protruding from his chest and the blade impaled in his torso.

A post-mortem revealed that Mr Wolsey had been stabbed 15 times during the frenzied attack – nine times in the torso and six times to his upper arm.

Seven of the nine torso wounds penetrated his major organs and he also had 37 superficial knife wounds to his body.

Ainsley, from Harrogate but of no fixed address, denied murder but admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Following his trial in October, a jury found him guilty of murder after psychiatric report said Ainsley’s guilt was not diminished by his complex personality disorder and that the killing was carried out in a “targeted, premeditated and goal-driven” way.

Prosecutor Mark McKone QC said Mr Wolsey, described by family members as having a “heart of gold”, had allowed Ainsley to stay at his bedsit in Mayfield Grove temporarily after his killer had become homeless.

However, Mr Wolsey had kicked Ainsley out of the flat prior to the killing because of his former friend’s behaviour. The prosecution said this may have been a motive for the grisly murder.

Ainsley and Mr Wolsey had known each other for over three years and worked together for a brief time at a local food-storage firm. They became friends and socialised together which “always involved” alcohol.

Ainsley became homeless in the early part of this year and ended up at the Harrogate Homeless Project in Bower Street but got kicked out of the shelter for violent and abusive behaviour.

He ended up being admitted to hospital for mental-health treatment. After being discharged, Mr Wolsey showed him “kindness” and allowed Ainsley to stay at his flat.

On the hours leading up to his death on March 5, Mr Wolsey was seen walking his dog “looking his normal, cheerful self”, according to a neighbour.

Later that day, in the early evening, Ainsley and Mr Wolsey had a drunken argument after Mr Wolsey told him he wanted him out of his flat.

Mr Wolsey called police at about 8.30pm and told them he was scared of Ainsley who was refusing to leave.

During the 13-minute phone call, Ainsley could be heard laughing and complaining that Mr Wolsey had “called the police on him”.

He told Mr Wolsey he had “signed his own death warrant”.

Mr Wolsey told the operator he “did not feel safe” and that Ainsley had punched him several times during the phone call and was trying to stab him. He said that all he “ever tried to do was to help (Ainsley)”.

When police turned up at the bedsit, Ainsley told them he couldn’t find his medication and falsely claimed Mr Wolsey had taken it.

Ainsley was escorted to Harrogate District Hospital by police so he could get replacement medication, but he made no attempt to get any.

Instead, he walked out of the hospital at about 9.30pm and made his way to Harrogate town centre. He went into the Asda supermarket in Bower Road, where he bought an eight-piece box of knives at the self-service check-out.

Outside the store, Ainsley opened the box and took out the “largest chef’s knife” from the set. He hid the eight-inch blade in the waistband of his trousers and discarded the other knives.

CCTV showed him then walking at a “brisk pace” to Mr Wolsey’s flat in Mayfield Grove. At 10pm, neighbours heard a “sound of raised voices, of violence” coming from the flat.

“They heard a groan of pain,” said Mr McKone.

Mr Wolsey was heard saying: “What for?”

Ainsley immediately called police and told them he had “stabbed a man to death”.

An audio recording of the call to the police operator, which was played in court, was chilling in the extreme. Ainsley could be heard telling the operator: “I need you to come and arrest me.”

When the operator asks him who has been stabbed, Ainsley replies: “A so-called friend.”

When asked where the knife was, Ainsley replied: “Inside him!”

Ainsley was arrested in Mayfield Grove shortly after Mr Wolsey’s body was discovered at about 10pm.

He said he had knocked on Mr Wolsey’s door and when it was opened slightly, he started stabbing him “and did not stop”.

As well as the knife wounds, Mr Wolsey had injuries to his ribs, shoulder blade and hands, which showed he had been trying to defend himself during the savage attack.

Dr Harry Wood, who assessed Ainsley following his arrest, said the murderer had told him he heard a ghost’s voice “whispering in his ear” and “commanding” him to get a knife and kill his former flatmate.

However, the court heard that Ainsley had given doctors several different accounts about why he killed his former friend.

Ainsley had previous convictions for 17 offences including serious violence, supplying Class A drugs, possessing an offensive weapon, drug-driving, assaulting emergency workers and public disorder. At the time of the murder, he was under a conditional discharge for being drunk and disorderly.

He had “lifelong” and complex mental-health issues including a borderline personality disorder, paranoia and “hearing voices”.

But a psychiatric consultant said Ainsley didn’t meet the criteria for diminished responsibility and that his behaviour in the run-up to the murder was “controlled, purposeful and determined”.

Mr Wolsey’s son Taylor described him as his “best friend, his fishing buddy”.

He said his life now had a “massive whole in it”.

He said Mr Wolsey loved his granddaughter and she would be deprived of “his father’s fantastic personality and his love”.

Mr Wolsey’s daughter Harley said her father’s death had left a “huge, frightening void” in her life.

His mother Jane Smith said her “world had fallen apart” and she had nightmares.

She said her son had a “heart of gold” and would “do anything for anyone, especially if they were struggling or in need”.

Judge Simon Phillips QC said: “Mark Wolsey’s death has had a shattering impact on those who knew and loved him.”

He said the circumstances of his death were “tragic and dreadful to a very high degree”.

“He was helpless, vulnerable,” added Mr Phillips.

“He did not stand a chance.”

Mr Phillips said there was “only one sentence for murder” of this kind and that was life imprisonment.

He told Ainsley he would serve a minimum of 21 years and three months in prison.

He said it was the least sentence he could impose for such a “vicious” attack which was “very-exceptionally brutal” and that Ainsley would have “no guarantee of release (from prison) once the minimum term has passed”.

“It will be for the Parole Board to (decide) if it will be safe for you to be set free,” added Mr Phillips.

“Even then, freedom will be relative. You will be on (prison) licence for the rest of your life.”

The judge commended police for their “painstaking, diligent and highly professional” investigation which included trawling through CCTV footage from Harrogate town centre.

He said the officers involved in the case, including Detective Superintendent Fran Naughton, Detective Constable Samantha James and DC Vincent Morris, should be commended for their work in bringing Ainsley to justice.