A racist killer is making a bid for freedom after a moving drama about his victim airs on TV tonight.
Michael Barton, 31 – brother of former Premier League footballer Joey Barton – is preparing for a parole hearing in October, just 15 years after he murdered 18-year-old Anthony Walker.
He is asking to be moved to an open prison so he is more likely to be released when his minimum 16-year term is up.
Barton was 17 when he and his cousin Paul Taylor, then 20, ambushed Anthony after racially abusing him at a bus stop on July 29, 2005.
Taylor drove an ice axe through Anthony’s skull in a park in Huyton, Merseyside, and the killers fled to Amsterdam.
Barton was found guilty of murder and jailed for a minimum of 17 years and eight months at Preston crown court that year, while Taylor admitted murder and must serve at least 23 years and eight months.
But in 2016 it was revealed Barton’s tariff had been cut to 16 years from 18 after he had become a charity worker in jail.
In the heartbreaking BBC1 film, Anthony, starring Toheeb Jimoh in the title role, imagined how the victim might have lived his life had he not been murdered.
It was written by Cracker creator Jimmy McGovern, who has known Anthony’s mother Gee for years.
Mrs Walker has stated she can forgive her son’s killers, but is unhappy about Barton’s sentence being reduced.
She said last week: “They promised me 18 years, a year for each year my son lived. If the justice system makes a promise and can’t keep it, what hope is there for us? When the judge passed a sentence of life, we are the ones who are sentenced to a life of ‘what?’, or ‘how?’
“We wonder what he would have been like, or how he would have turned out. We wonder what he’d be doing now.
“We are the ones who are left with this abyss of pain and wondering.”
Reducing Barton’s original tariff, Mr Justice Mitting said the killer’s “remarkable” transformation in prison had satisfied the “high threshold” for taking time off the sentence.
The judge noted that a summary of a post-sentence evaluation was that Barton was “a racist thug”, and that “violence was routinely deployed” by him and his fellow gang members.
But he went on to claim that Barton had performed a “transformation from a racist thug into the sensible realistic young man” while in custody.
A Parole Board spokesman said: “An oral hearing has been listed for the parole review of Michael Barton and is scheduled to take place in October.
“Parole Board decisions are solely focused on what risk a prisoner could represent to the public if released and whether that risk is manageable in the community.
“The panel will carefully examine a whole range of evidence, including details of the original crime, and any evidence of behaviour change, as well as understand the harm done and impact the crime has had on the victims.
“Parole reviews are undertaken thoroughly and with extreme care. Protecting the public is our number one priority.”