A ‘dangerous bully’ who targeted a disabled man and battered him with a beer bottle during a malicious robbery has been jailed. Stephen Earle, 36, spotted vulnerable Peter Keppie using a zimmer frame in the Scarisbrick Hotel in Southport on August 15 last year and followed him into his hotel room at around 10am.

Mr Keepie, also 36, had been temporarily living at the hotel on Lord Street while waiting for an operation for his congenital back problem as the staff could cater for his mobility needs, the Liverpool Echo reports. Liverpool Crown Court heard that Earle, who was carrying two Desperado bottled beers, shut the door behind them and asked Mr Keepie if he could buy valium from him before offering to give him cocaine.

Bernice Campbell, prosecuting, told the court: “He began to rifle through Mr Keppie’s belongings looking for his medication, before asking for cash and taking Mr Keppie’s bank card from his wallet. The defendant then struck Mr Keppie on the head with the bottom of one of the beer bottles.

“Mr Keppie struggled but the defendant struck him again with the beer bottle on the arm, leg and foot.” The vicious attack left Mr Keppie with serious bruises but Earle was not finished and began ”ransacking” through the victim’s belongings.

He stole a brand new iPhone Mr Keppie had been gifted by his family for his upcoming birthday only five days earlier, the court heard. A short while later, Mr Keppie’s mother showed up at the hotel and discovered her son lying on his bed ‘in distress’.

He was admitted to Southport Hospital where he spent 10 days as an inpatient, including the day of his birthday. Mr Keppie tragically passed away three months after the attack, although no conclusive link between his death and the incident has been found.

Scarisbrick Hotel, Southport where the attack took place

Ms Campbell told the court: “Shortly after his discharge from the hospital, Mr Keppie suffered a bleed during the night. There was dark blood on his pillow.

“His mum believes that Mr Keppie suffered from trauma and his body has shut down upon returning to the hotel. As a result of this, Mr Keppie returned to his mum’s care.

“She notes how he suffered from flashbacks to the assault and nightmares. She recounts how Peter was very friendly and polite.

“She describes how he was gregarious and ‘to say he lit up the room is an understatement’. She states that Mr Keppie never sought confrontation and she believes that the male who assaulted Mr Keppie clearly took advantage of him due to his vulnerability.”

Mrs Campbell told the court that at the time of the assault Earle was out on bail after being arrested for another violent offence. She revealed that earlier that year on June 4 Earle had attended a get together between neighbours at a flat on Priory Road, Anfield and victims, Kirsty Littlewood and James Wood had attended.

Kirsty Littlewood had tried to calm down an argument which broke out between Earle and another man over a social media post. Ms Campbell said: “The defendant did not respond well to Miss Littlewood’s attempts to diffuse the situation and punched her in her right eye.

“Mr Earle then came at Mr Wood with a kitchen knife from the knife block and swiped at Mr Wood with the knife, catching his head and causing a cut above his left ear of around 1-2 inches. The defendant continued to make stabbing motions towards Mr Wood’s neck despite another male trying to get the knife off him.

“The other male was able to successfully disarm the defendant who ran out of the front door.” The court heard that Earle left Mr Wood with a one inch scar and Ms Littlewood suffered a black eye after being punched in the face.

Liverpool Crown Court

Liverpool Crown Court

The defendant later pleaded guilty to the robbery of Mr Keppie, assaulting Mr Wood causing actual bodily harm and a common assault against Ms Littlewood. The court heard that Earle had a lengthy record which included 24 convictions for 36 offences and also spent two years in a Spanish jail while living there for a ”robbery and burglary spree”

Jo Maxwell, defending said her client has an alcohol and drug addiction and that he has very little memory of attacking Mr Keepie as his ”life was a mess” at that time. She said: “He has had a very difficult life living on the streets and between different people’s houses.

“He himself having lived that life has been attacked, he was stabbed in the hand shortly before these offences. He has said the time he has spent on remand in custody has been the most stable part of his life for many years.”

Ms Maxwell said her client accepted that he faced a lengthy sentence and asked Judge Louise Brandon to reduce his sentence as a long sentence would ‘extinguish all hope’ of him being able to achieve a ‘more constructive life’. Judge Brandon who described Earle as a ”violent bully” said she had ”no hesitation” in ensuring that Earle met the legal definition of ‘dangerousness’ under sentencing legislation.

She said: “You have demonstrated not one shred of remorse for harm you have caused. One particularly troubling feature of this case is that, notwithstanding the fact you were on bail for other violent offences, you targeted a vulnerable man because you knew he was unable to protect himself.”

Earle was handed an extended prison sentence of 11 years and three months for the robbery with an additional five years on licence. Judge Brandon also passed an additional 17 month jail term for the assaults.

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reporters@dailyrecord.co.uk (Jonathan Humphries, Nicola Croal)

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