THE parents of murdered boxer Mark Denton have told of their devastation after the brothers who hacked him to death with an axe were found guilty at court today.

David Sowerby, 24, and his half-brother, Anthony Middleton, 21, were found guilty of Mr Denton’s murder at a New Year’s Eve party following a 14-day trial.

Both Hartlepool men were sentenced to life imprisonment - Sowerby must serve a minimum of 25 years and Middleton 23 years.

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Speaking outside Teesside Crown Court, Mr Denton’s mother, Ann Denton, said she wished the pair had been “locked up for life”.

She said: “I look at them and I can’t believe two young lads like that could do it. I just want to ask them why?

"Even if they’d just wanted to hurt him, but why kill? I just wish they’d killed me instead of Mark.”

In a statement Mrs Denton and her husband, Brian, added that their son was; “A big softy deep down.”

The jury, who took just one hour and 15 minutes to unanimously find both Hartlepool men guilty, had heard that Mr Denton and Sowerby had rowed over a woman last October.

Mr Denton, who had been a professional boxer, had knocked Sowerby, of Allerton Close, to the ground and Sowerby had held a grudge. Part of the confrontation was videoed and Sowerby, who was seen running away, had shouted he would shoot Mr Denton.

Middleton, of Bruntoft Avenue, had ordered a £36.99 Sabre Cut camping axe in December on the internet and took it to the New Year’s Eve party in Hutton Avenue.

The day before the party, Sowerby had posted a message on Facebook based on a quote from the film Casino which read: “I’ll crack your f***ing skull open, and guess what? By the time I’m coming out of jail hopefully you’ll be coming out of your coma, ‘cos I’ll crack your f***ing skull open again. See, that’s the difference between me and you. I’m f***ing stupid. That’s what I do.”

On New Year’s Eve, Sowerby, who had 13 previous convictions and had been jailed for affray in 2012 when he threatened a police officer with a Samurai sword, drunk 12 Jagerbombs in half an hour and had also taken cocaine.

Sowerby attacked Mr Denton within minutes of his victim going to the rave-style party at about 10pm. One witness said he hit Mr Denton with the axe so hard it was an effort to remove it from his skull. Middleton joined in and eventually struck the boxer with the axe himself. Mr Denton’s girlfriend, Sarah Kinnie, saw her partner hacked down tried to intervene, but to no avail.

Mr Denton was taken to hospital, but an artery had been severed in his upper arm and he bled to death.

After the attack, the brothers threatened another party-goer with the axe and forced him to drive them to Bruntoft Avenue. The pair handed themselves in to police at about 2pm on New Year’s Day.

Sentencing Sowerby, trial judge Mr Justice Green said: “Following the massacre you buzzed with excitement saying, ‘we’ve done him there’. Whilst Mark Denton was no angel, he was a man with his life before him. You brought devastation to his family.”

Sentencing Middleton,he said he had been “sucked into your older brother’s desire for revenge,” and was part of the plan to kill or very severely injure Mr Denton.

Also speaking after the sentence, Detective Chief Inspector Anne-Marie Salwey said: “I have never known such a brutal and horrific murder. Sowerby and Middleton have shown no remorse for the cold blooded murder of Mark.”

Both the brothers had claimed self-defence.