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Killer with Johnny Depp complex faces sentencing after fatal guitar attack at pub

Beechers Brook pub, Staveley. Picture: Google
Beechers Brook pub, Staveley. Picture: Google

A killer with a Johnny Depp complex is due to be sentenced later this week after he hit a pensioner around the head with a guitar.

Nottingham Crown Court heard during an on-going trial how Jason Knowland, 46, admitted committing manslaughter but was found not guilty of murder today, Tuesday, May 22, after he killed retired newsagent Peter Matts following an altercation at The Beechers Brook pub, on High Street, in Staveley.

Pictured is Nottingham Crown Court.

Pictured is Nottingham Crown Court.

Knowland, of High Street, Staveley, had reportedly developed personality disorders and had become fixated with modelling himself on Hollywood movie star Johnny Depp, according to defence barrister Christopher Tehrani.

Mr Tehrani said there had been witness accounts of Knowland being argumentative and of him accusing people of staring at him before he struck the 69-year-old in the face with his guitar about 6.30pm, on June 21, last year.

Consultant forensic psychologist Dr Ruth Tully told the court she had diagnosed Knowland after the attack with personality disorders including a paranoid disorder, an emotional and unstable disorder, a borderline emotional disorder, and a histrionic disorder.

She said: “In my opinion I see traits of these disorders playing out in the lead-up to this offence.”

Movie star Johnny Depp is among the world's most famous actors to be featured in paving on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Movie star Johnny Depp is among the world's most famous actors to be featured in paving on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Mr Tehrani, who argued Knowland was suffering with an abnormality of mental function, mentioned to Dr Tully that artist and burial headstone designer Knowland thought he looked like Johnny Depp and Dr Tully agreed this was part of a personality disorder.

Knowland’s former employer Les Hopkinson, of Hopkinson Memorials, in Staveley, also stated Knowland had started to model himself on the actor and that people had mentioned how much he looked like the movie star who plays Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

Mr Hopkinson added former stone mason Knowland even tried to adopt the lifestyle of Johnny Depp and he had changed his persona.

Dr Tully said that those with histrionic personalty disorder can be anxious about being ignored and can have an overwhelming urge to be noticed and they want to be the centre of attention while being self centred but constantly seeking reassurance.

She said: “Someone who desires attention and craves it might dress as Johnny Depp to get it but its distressing when they get negative attention or assume they are getting negative attention.”

Dr Tully added Knowland also felt he should have gone to university and should have been employed by Disney-Pixar because he felt he was such a good artist.

She said that Knowland had a history of self-harming, has had an interest in conspiracy theories and he has had grudges borne out by what was described in court as his “kill list” of people he thought had wronged him.

Dr Tully told the court Knowland’s unusual behaviour at the pub which had included accounts of him being argumentative and accusing people of staring at him appeared to be traits of his disorders.

She said that given the evidence a diagnosis of his personality disorders would have applied before, during and after the incident affecting his decision-making and self-control.

Dr Tully added that traits of a paranoid personality disorder included feeling suspicious or paranoid and mistrustful of people.

Those with emotional and unstable personality disorders, according to Dr Tully, can have a leaning towards anger and violence and those with emotional personality disorder can have problems with self identity and can struggle with relationships.

Dr Tully added: “It is reported that in the background there were histrionic behaviours with him dressing as Johnny Depp and he felt people were looking at him and he dealt with this by consuming alcohol which is a coping strategy.”

Knowland told police he had been drinking beer during the day and he had taken co-codamol and medication for anxiety and depression when he went to collect his guitar from the pub after it had been left by a friend but he could not remember the attack which was captured on CCTV.

Mr Matts was taken to Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital by ambulance with serious life threatening injuries and he was pronounced dead at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital on June 28.

Knowland claimed to police in an interview he remembers going to collect the guitar and speaking to a woman and a man but he could not recall what else happened in the pub.

He added that the next thing he remembered was being on the ground with a foot on his throat outside the pub as he was being restrained. He also claimed to police he has suffered from black-outs.

Consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Ramneesh Puri also told the court divorced Knowland felt he had suffered from a difficult up-bringing, had struggled to stick with jobs and he had shown difficulties maintaining relationships.

Dr Puri added Knowland had become alcohol dependent to deal with life and he had been taking anti-depressants for many years.

Knowland denied intending to kill Mr Matts and pleaded not guilty to murder and he was acquitted by a jury of this charge.

But he has pleaded guilty to manslaughter throughout on the grounds of suffering an abnormality of mental function.

Nottingham Crown Court confirmed Knowland is due to be sentenced for manslaughter on Thursday, May 24.