A CHIPPENHAM youth who struck a father of two at least 19 times with a brick, continuing to rain blows down while his victim lay in the street, has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 18 years for his murder.

Matthew Chapman, of Wood Lane, attacked 38-year-old Russell Nixon in his own home in Derby Close on May 10, following a dispute over a bank card and prescription drugs. When Mr Nixon refused to give up his PIN number and his medication, Chapman punched him three times in the head, with such force that the 38-year-old landed in the bath.

Chapman, who pleaded guilty two weeks ago at Bristol Crown Court, then went on to strike Mr Nixon a number of times with an electric drill before using a baseball bat to hit him with.

The pair then left the house and began to walk up London Road, where at about 12.10am Chapman picked up a brick and carried out a vicious attack, hitting Mr Nixon 19 times, belabouring his head and face. His violence was witnessed by a young childminder, who saw the assault from her window.

Chapman then ran off and left Mr Nixon dying in the road. He was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics who responded to 999 calls from locals awoken by the attack.

The killer, who the court heard had been taken into care as a child and who had numerous convictions for violence, later apologised to Mr Nixon's friends and family.

Sentencing him today, Judge Peter Blair QC gave Chapman credit for his early guilty plea and his apology. He said: "Russell Nixon was a troubled and vulnerable man who had suffered from mental health problems since his early teens. His life was chaotic and he was often taken advantage of by others.

"You went into the town centre with a group of four others. You were already drunk from whisky and had taken heroin and cocaine and you started in good spirits. But then an incident occurred prompting you to become angry and when you met Russell in the town centre you began asking him for his PIN number of a card you were in possession of.

"When he refused at the house and went into the bathroom it seemed to enrage you and you punched him in the head at least three times with such force it pulled down the shower curtain.

"But you didn’t just resort to using your fists with him, you picked up an electric drill and hit him with it, with a blow that was so severe it left a clear imprint on his head; this seemed insufficient for your desire of violence though because you also attacked him with a baseball bat.

"Later you picked up a brick and while he was prone delivered an unrelenting series of blows to his head, impacting him at least 19 times with two of those blows fracturing his skull and driving fragments of skull into his brain. You left him there to die."

Detective Inspector Jim Taylor, of the Brunel Major Crime Investigation Team, praised his officers for finding and arresting Chapman within the hour and the witness for her detailed statement.

He said: “Firstly, I would like to express my sincere condolences to the family of Russell who are struggling to come to terms with this tragic and sudden loss.

“It was evident from the injuries sustained that this was a violent and horrific attack which occurred in the early hours of the morning. The disorder happened close to a number of houses and many residents were awoken by the tragic incident.

"I am thankful to the member of the public who alerted police so quickly. Combined with the local knowledge of community policing team officers, we were able to swiftly make an arrest and ensure evidence was preserved which was crucial to the case.

“This incident understandably had a huge impact on the local community – Chippenham is a quiet town and incidents like this are rare. Violence of any kind will not be tolerated within our county and we will do all that we can to ensure violent individuals like Chapman are put before the courts and brought to justice.”

For the full report read the Chippenham edition of the Gazette & Herald on Thursday.