Man beaten to death with dumb bell after sacrificing own life to save two-year-old from 'life-threatening' batterings

Richard Woodcock
Richard Woodcock

Thames Valley Police found the body of Richard Woodcock, 38, when they forced their way into a property in Milton Keynes on June 26

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A “heroic” neighbour who sacrificed his own life to save a two-year-old boy died after being repeatedly hit with a dumb bell, a coroner has said.

Thames Valley Police found the body of highways officer Richard Woodcock, 38, when they forced their way into a property at Denmead, in Two Mile Ash, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, after being called to an ongoing disturbance at about 9.40am on June 26.

He had gone to the next door flat to help the boy, who was thought to be in danger, Milton Keynes Coroner’s Court heard.

Kelvin Odichukumma Igweani, 24, was pronounced dead at the scene after a police officer fired four shots.

Coroner Tom Osborne ruled that Mr Woodcock was unlawfully killed and added that the little boy, who suffered life-threatening injuries and needed surgery, was saved by Mr Woodcock’s “heroic conduct”.

Police at the scene in Denmead, Two Mile Ash, in Milton Keynes. Picture date: Sunday June 27, 2021.
Police at the scene in Denmead, Two Mile Ash, in Milton Keynes. Picture date: Sunday June 27, 2021.

A post mortem examination found that Mr Woodcock suffered traumatic head injuries, consistent with repeated blows to the head area.

It is thought that a dumb bell was used as weapon on Mr Woodcock, the court heard.

The coroner said Mr Woodcock was assaulted and “his life was lost” but “he saved the life of a two-year-old boy”.

Mr Woodcock had reacted after a “altercation” in the neighbouring flat, which had sent a screaming woman rushing to his home who was “fearful of her life and was obviously in an agitated state”.

Mr Woodcock went to help. The door opened, he was dragged in and seriously assaulted “to the point where he was hit with a 4kg dumb bell”, the coroner said.

Mr Woodcock’s death has had a “devastating” effect on his family, who will be “haunted” by what happened and that a life was “needlessly” taken.

Police forensic officers at the scene in Denmead, Two Mile Ash, in Milton Keynes. Picture date: Sunday June 27, 2021.
Police forensic officers at the scene in Denmead, Two Mile Ash, in Milton Keynes. Picture date: Sunday June 27, 2021.

The coroner told Mr Woodcock’s family that “he will be remembered for his heroism and his bravery but I think he will be remembered for more than his death”.

The coroner said he hoped that at some point the family, who did not want to speak after the inquest, will be able to think of their loved one and recall “happier times”, and added that Milton Keynes-born Mr Woodcock would be “remembered for a very long time”.

Earlier the court had heard that Mr Woodcock’s wife was on a 999 telephone call to the police when he decided to go and see if he could help the child who was in the flat.

They had been alerted by a woman who was shouting for help.

A woman and another young child had managed to flee the address before the police arrived.

When officers forced their way in, they immediately saw a dead man, later identified as Mr Woodcock.

Detective Sergeant Mike West, of Thames Valley Police, had told the court that two firearms officers had responded to the incident and were at the scene.

A taser was used on Mr Igweani, who had become “aggressive”.

Thames Valley Police (TVP) said in a statement officers were called to an address in Denmead, Two Mile Ash, at about 9.40am on Saturday and made a forced entry after acting on information from a witness. Picture date: Sunday June 27, 2021.
Thames Valley Police (TVP) said in a statement officers were called to an address in Denmead, Two Mile Ash, at about 9.40am on Saturday and made a forced entry after acting on information from a witness. Picture date: Sunday June 27, 2021.

Mr West said: “Officers gained entry to the address and saw Mr Woodcock prone on the floor. There was a large kettle bell and he had significant head injuries.”

The inquest previously heard that a Taser was discharged, but this was ineffective, and Mr Igweani barricaded himself in the main bedroom.

Armed officers tried to get into that room. A child could be heard crying, and the sounds of an ongoing assault.

Entry was gained to the bedroom, at which point a police firearm was discharged. Police officers and ambulance staff administered first aid.

The coroner said “officer shots were fired and Mr Igweani suffered gunshot wounds” and died at the scene.

Mr West replied: “Yes, sir.”

The coroner said the little boy suffered serious injuries and spent two months in hospital but had now “miraculously made a recovery”.

An inquest into Mr Igweani’s death will be held at a later date.