Brothers cleared of funeral attempted murder

Last updated: 12/06/2009 6:00:00 AM


Family and friends celebrate the news outside court - brothers Thomas Frankham (grey suit jacket), Robert Frankham (green shirt) and Sam Frankham (brown jumper) are in the centre of the picture

A FORMER boxer who trained Hollywood actor Brad Pitt for two film roles has, along with his two brothers, been cleared of the attempted murder of a man at a funeral in Newmarket.

Following a trial at Ipswich Crown Court, Robert Frankham, 45, of Watford, and brothers Thomas Frankham, 44, of Cranleigh, Surrey, and Sam Frankham, 41, of Annan, Dumfries, were all found not guilty of trying to beat another man to death at the funeral

The three had all denied attacking Michael Willett Junior, 38, of Grantham, Lincs, after the funeral of a traveller in Newmarket on June 4 last year.

The brothers, who were also cleared of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, were greeted with loud cheers from relatives and supporters as they left court yesterday.

It had been alleged that Mr Willett was attacked by Thomas Frankham with a meat cleaver, at the funeral of traveller Sophie Penfold, and then set upon by four other men, including his brothers.

But after a five week trial and seven hours of jury deliberations the three brothers walked free from court. Outside, Robert Frankham said: “It's the right result. We're delighted.''

The prosecution had claimed the attack was the result of “bad blood” between the Frankham and Willett families, who had not spoken for 17 years, within the travelling community.

Former boxer, Robert 'Bobby' Frankham, who once trained actor Brad Pitt for his roles in Fight Club and Snatch and had entertained the star as well as director Guy Ritchie at his home, was not cross examined during the trial. Younger brother Sam also did not enter the witness box to give evidence but Thomas Frankham had told the court in the fourth week of the trial that he knew who was responsible for the attack but refused to name them.

He admitted head-butting Mr Willett, who he said provoked the fight with the intention of calling in a gang armed with cleavers and machetes to butcher members of the Frankham family.

The Frankham brothers were at the funeral of an elderly relative when Mr Willett was attacked, leaving him in Addenbrookes Hospital with a 15cm gash to the side of the head and multiple skull fractures.

Mr Willett, who remained at the hospital for five days before being allowed home, had told the court via video link that he had no memory of what happened after being approached by Thomas Frankham.