The man who, as a child, was behind the iconic “Accrington Stanley, who are they?” line in 1989’s milk advert, has been jailed for life after battering a man to death.
Kevin Spaine was yesterday found guilty of the murder of Learoy Venner, who was repeatedly punched and kicked in an assault at a flat in Belmont Drive, Anfield.
The 43-year-old today returned to Liverpool Crown Court to be sentenced – where he was jailed for life, with a minimum term of 18 years.
John Harrison KC, appearing on behalf of Spaine, told the court during his sentencing that his client was formerly a “very promising young footballer” and had starred in the famous Milk Marketing Board advertisement.
Spaine was one of two boys seen in the clip, clad in Liverpool FC kits.
He is only briefly sighted on camera, reports the Liverpool Echo, walking through the shot before it focusses on his co-star Carl Rice besides a fridge in the kitchen.
The defendant is heard to ask “have you got any lemonade?”, to which the other junior footballer replies: “If you want.”
As he then pours himself a glass of milk, Spaine reacts by saying: “Milk? Eurgh.”
His friend tells him: “It’s what Ian Rush drinks. He said if I don’t drink lots of milk, when I grow up I’ll only be good enough to play for Accrington Stanley.”
Spaine then delivers the familiar line “Accrington Stanley, who are they?” before a young Mr Rice, who has gone to a successful career on screen including roles in Coronation Street and Brassic, responds with “exactly”. His role in the TV advert had until now been incorrectly credited to “Kevin Staine”.
Spaine’s life spiralled into one of crime and drugs in the coming year, leading to around 40 appearances before the court for nearly 100 offences and ultimately culminating in Mr Venner’s murder. Since 1999, his criminal record includes convictions for dealing heroin and crack cocaine, wounding and assault with intent to rob.
Mr Harrison said in his mitigation: “This defendant’s life has been ruined and dominated by the abuse of illegal drugs. He has a very long history of criminal offending.
“We know he’s been in this situation for 20 years or more, but he wasn’t always like that. Mr Spaine was a very promising young footballer, and he appeared in a very famous advertisement on the television – an advert for milk involving Accrington Stanley.
“He played a part in that advertisement. At an age of 10 or 12, or however old he was, he had a promising future. Shortly afterwards, he sinks into a life of criminality. Twenty years later, he is convicted of murder. It’s not an unfamiliar spiral to the court, but it is a tragic one. Of course, he respects the jury’s verdict.”
A trial previously heard that Mr Venner had been living at the address temporarily at the time of the incident on July 27, 2022, sleeping on a camp bed in the lounge.
Alan Kent KC, prosecuting, described how the apartment was “being used as a drug den”, with Spaine among its frequent visitors.
But he was refused entry by the victim shortly after midday on the day in question. He was eventually let in by returning tenant Mark Kelly, who then left again in order to top up the electricity meter.
It was at this point that Mr Venner was fatally assaulted, with Spaine leaving him lying unconscious and going to his mum’s house to change his clothes afterwards. He was arrested on suspicion of murder that evening, at which point he responded: “That’s a big charge, what do you mean murder?”
Under interview with detectives, Spaine later stated that Mr Venner, from Toxteth, had “taken two swings at him” and he had returned four or five blows “in self-defence”. A post-mortem investigation revealed that he had suffered “multiple forceful blows”, causing a brain injury – “the sort of trauma usually associated with a car crash or a fall from height”.
Sentencing this morning, Judge Brian Cummings KC said: “Only you will know the detail of what happened in the flat at that time. You have shown yourself to be a shocking liar.
“I am sure there was no element of self-defence in anything you did to Leroy Venner. What possible threat could he have presented to you? I am sure you struck him multiple heavy punches to the face and then finished your attack by kicking him, probably more than once and with force. What precisely caused you to want to do all of this will never be known to anyone other than yourself.
“You were very insistent on wanting to get into the flat. I am sure your interest in gaining entry to the flat was because you hoped to get either drugs or money – probably, you were disappointed in that hope.
“I do not find this was a murder for gain. However I am sure when you gained access to the flat, having been kept hanging around, those things led you to launch a ferocious attack upon him.
“He had no chance of escaping you or fighting you off. You attacked and killed a man whom you knew to be weak and in poor health.
“I accept that the eruption of violence occurred spontaneously, albeit you were in an agitated state having regard to the fact you’d been kept waiting outside.
“You left him unconscious on his back and breathing in his own blood for something like half an hour before he actually died.”
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