Man handed life sentence for murder of licensee

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Crime scene: Christian Thornton was stabbed to death outside the pub he ran for 16 years
Crime scene: Christian Thornton was stabbed to death outside the pub he ran for 16 years

Related tags: Crime

A 35-year-old man who stabbed a licensee to death outside his pub has been sentenced to life in prison.

Lee Abbott must serve a minimum of 28 years after being convicted of the murder of Christian Thornton on Thursday 20 February after an eight-day trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

The licensee was killed outside his pub – the Hammer & Pincers – on Liverpool Road, Widnes, Cheshire, on Sunday 11 August.

The 49-year-old father had been the licensee for 16 years and was a familiar face to many in the town, according to Cheshire Police.

Abbott had pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but the jury chose to convict him of murder. Thornton had banned Abbott from the pub nine days before his death, after he was heard bragging about carrying a knife.

Thornton also put Abbott on the Pubwatch list, meaning he was barred from all licensed premises in Widnes.

Fatal stabbing

However, despite the ban, Abbott returned to the pub at about 3.10pm that day, was asked to leave by Thornton and started to walk away before running back towards him and fatally stabbing him.

Following the conclusion of the case, Thornton’s wife Pam issued a statement that said: “Justice has been done and Abbott has been held accountable for murdering Chris.

“On Sunday 11 August, Abbott not only took my husband’s life but also destroyed my life and the lives of our three children.

“Since that day, the indescribable pain I have lived with has been multiplied as I watch our children try to come to terms with losing their dad in such a violent way.

“They do so with dignity and strength that would make their dad proud. I would like to thank everyone who has worked tirelessly to ensure justice prevailed, especially David McLachlan QC, Detective Inspector Kate Tomlinson and their teams.

“I would also like to thank my family, friends and Chris’s family for their support at this truly awful time. I ask now that my family are left alone and given the privacy to start to rebuild our lives.”

Pragmatic decision

National Pubwatch chair Steve Baker claimed it was only a matter of time before knife crime on the streets of towns and cities would impact the pub trade.

He said: “There can be no doubt the Widnes Pubwatch scheme had every right to conclude this man was a danger to pub staff and customers, and should be excluded from their venues. It is the type of pragmatic decision taken by Pubwatch members across the UK on a regular basis.”

Baker outlined the important of the scheme, which was brought up by JD Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin at a recent event.

He added: “As Martin so rightly highlighted when speaking at our annual National Pubwatch conference, licensees can be vulnerable.

“Martin also said he had ‘never felt so intimidated than standing in a pub, behind the bar’. It is a great shame Pubwatch members should have to use common law bans to protect their businesses but, unfortunately, we can’t rely solely on the criminal justice system.

“But as this case so tragically illustrates, there are people in every community who pose a real and present danger to the pub trade.

“We hope members of Widnes Pubwatch feel confident to stand firm and continue with their efforts. It is only by working together that we can present a strong and effective front to the thugs who have no respect for the silent majority only wishing to work and socialise in safety.”

Related topics: Health & safety

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