A FAILED ex-soldier has been jailed indefinitely for the brutal killing of St Helens man Darren Bolger.
Stephen Thomas, 26, who was deemed temperamentally unsuitable for the Army, left his 40-year-old victim for dead in a town centre alleyway after using him as “a defenceless punchbag”.
Thomas, who had only been released from prison that day, was described by a Liverpool Crown Court judge as “an angry and dangerous young man”.
The court heard how Thomas ran across a lawn behind the Salvation Army hostel on Parr Street on January 27 last year and scaled a six-foot high metal fence before punching his victim three times in the face.
Mr Bolger suffered a fractured skull after falling to the ground and hitting his head.
Thomas initially ran off but then returned - possibly lookiong for cigarettes - before kicking his victim twice in the face and leaving him lying in a pool of blood.
Jailing Thomas indefinitely, Mr Justice Henriques ruled that the defendant posed a significant risk of serious harm to the public.
He said: “This was an attack in a public place involving gratuitous violence to a total stranger, witnessed by a 12-year-old boy, who found your attack with fists both shocking and frightening.
“It was a disproportionate lethal attack on a man unable to defend himself. By a quite mindless act of violence you took the life of Darren Bolger.”
The court heard how Thomas had spent two and a half years in the Army before a “shameful” final report awarded him the lowest possible rating for “merit, common sense, determination and courage”.
His lack of respect for authority and discipline was also demonstrated by three periods of absence without leave and several court order breaches.
Thomas always denied murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter at the start of his re-trial in December after an earlier jury had been unable to reach a verdict.
As well as convictions for ten offences Thomas had also previously received a non-molestation order for grabbing his aunt by the scruff of the neck and shaking her, had punched and kicked a man who lost consciousness and been abusive and aggressive to hostel staff.
Nigel Power QC, defending, said Thomas had shown remorse and now accepted that he needed help with anger management.
Mr Justice Henriques, who jailed Thomas for a minimum of four-and-a-half years, added: “I find you to be an angry and dangerous young man. You may not be released from custody for many, many years, if at all.”