Knives are "mark of a coward" judge tells murder teens

The Northern Echo: Kevin Johnson, who was stabbed to death outside his home in Partick Road, Sunderland on 19 May 2007. He is pictured with his baby Kevin Johnson, who was stabbed to death outside his home in Partick Road, Sunderland on 19 May 2007. He is pictured with his baby

THREE teenagers were today locked up for life for murdering a young dad who had the courage to walk outside his home and ask them to be quiet.

Kevin Johnson was stabbed with a knife after being asked "would you like to meet Mr Stanley?"

At Newcastle Crown Court Judge David Hodson spoke of his concern at Britain's knife culture, and branded the carrying of such weapons the "mark of a coward".

Mr Johnson was getting ready for bed on May 18 when he heard a fracas and went to the window of his house in Partick Road, in the Pennywell area of Sunderland, to investigate.

Newcastle Crown Court heard how the 22-year-old was enticed out of the safety of his home where he was attacked and stabbed through the heart.

He was pronounced dead despite efforts of medics at Sunderland Royal Hospital to save him.

"He will never see his son's first tooth, his first haircut or his first day of school."

Kevin Johnson's fiance, Adele

Newcastle Crown Court heard how one of his attackers had taunted him with "would you like to meet my mate Mr Stanley" before producing the deadly blade which killed him.

As Mr Johnson lay dying and his frantic fiancee called for an ambulance his attackers went on and stabbed another innocent victim, Jamie Thompson, 22, in their "triumphant" state.

Dean Curtis, 19, Tony Hawkes, 17, and Jordan Towers, 16, were all found guilty of murder and wounding with intent after a three week trial.

The judge told them: "All three of you were carrying knives and it is that which is such a disturbing feature of this case.

"You were each in possession of a knife of some description or other.

"That, it seems to me was something routinely done by you and indeed so many others as well.

"THe feeble excuse often given is they are carried in case of attack and can be used in self defence.

"This case illustrates yet again, if any illustration is necessary, the sheer stupidity and the obvious danger of young men carrying knives.

"It is all too easy, particularly when fuelled up with drink, to use them.

"All too often the consequences are fatal.

"The whole country is painfully aware of the frequency of which knives are carried and used.

"Often, as in this case, there are terrible consequences for the innocent victims and their families.

"The sooner people in general, boys and young men in particular, realise the risk they are running and stop carrying such weapons the better.

"There is nothing macho in carrying a knife, quite the contrary, it is the mark of a coward."

The judge said those who chose to carry a knife risk "ruination of their own lives, followed by long periods of custody".

Curtis, of Forest Road, Sunderland, Hawkes, of Mortimer Street, Sunderland, and Towers, of Fell Road, Sunderland, all denied murder during a three week trial but were found guilty of all charges by a jury.

The court heard how the all have a string of previous convictions and have frequently breached court orders imposed by the courts.

Mr Johnson was described as a hard working, popular character who had recently proposed to his fiancee Adele Brett.

The couple had a one-year-old son together.

Judge Hodson paid tribute yesterday to the dignity shown by his grieving relatives and friends during the court proceedings and said the statements made by them on the impact of the loss of Kevin were "very moving".

Defence barristers said the trio had shown remorse for what happened that night, although they all still deny direct involvement in the stabbing of Mr Johnson.

Judge Hodson said he was satisfied it was not Towers who inflicted the fatal injury.

The judge sentenced Curtis to life imprisonment and ordered he must serve at least 17 years before he can apply for parole.

Hawkes and Towers were ordered to by detained at Her Majesty's pleasure.

Hawkes cannot apply for parole for 16 years and Towers for 13.

The court had heard how the trio had been roaming the streets of Sunderland downing vodka and wine in the hours leading up to the attack.

After the attacks Curtis is said to have told a friend he asked one of the victims if he 'wanted to meet Mr Stanley' - refering to the deadly blade - before he was stabbed.

Prosecutor Robert Woodcock told the court how on the night of the killing Mr Johnson had been out for a drink with his partner Adele Brett, with whom he had a six month old baby son Chaise.

The couple had a babysitter for the night and had enjoyed a few drinks before going to bed.

Their neighbour Marsha Newby was able to see the attack from her window after hearing raised voices.

Mr Woodcock told the court: "All three were closing in on Kevin.

"One of them was moving his arms across his chest and Kevin was dodging out of the way.

"Two got closer to Kevin as he backed away then he appeared to stumble and fall.

"He got back up and one of the males, the one furthest away, threw a rock or a brick at him.

"It missed in fact and fell on the road.

"Kevin shouted 'you couldn't fight with your hands, you've stabbed me', and collapsed against a low wall, struggling for breath."

Mr Johnson's fiance Adele Brett telephoned the police when she realised he was being attacked.

A transcript of the 999 call was read to jurors.

She had told police: "I think my boyfriend has just been stabbed, I think he's just been stabbed, he's collapsed over the wall.

"Three boys just came running around the corner causing trouble and he went to try and stop them, he's been stabbed, he's been stabbed.

"Quick please, I need an ambulance.

"He's not breathing, difficulty breathing, please he's really struggling, is the ambulance coming?"

The court heard after the attack on Mr Johnson the youths were "triumphant" as they went on to damage two cars and stab Mr Thomspon.

Scientific evidence indicates it was the same knife used on both victims.

Adele Johnson said her partner Kevin's death had left her struggling to go on.

His parents John and Katy said they "hated" the killers for what they'd done.

And the officer who led the police investigation said it was "sheer luck" he was not dealing with a double murder.

Adele, who is a full-time-Mum to one-year-old Chaise, said: "The events of May 19 has had a major effect on me and my children's lives.

"I can't eat or sleep properly and I keep turning over to cuddle Kev then realise he's not there.

"I have dreams this is all a big nightmare then wake up back to this horrible reality.

"These three people have taken away my life, my future children and my wedding day.

"We never even had the chance to have a family holiday.

"Kev only got to see his son's first seven months.

"He will never see his son's first tooth, his first haircut or his first day of school.

"He'll never be able to play football with him or take him to a match.

"Chaise will never have his own memories of his dad, just other people's.

"People keep telling me it will get easier over time but they are wrong - it gets harder.

"You just learn to put a public face on it better.

"I'm counting the weeks since I saw him last I miss him so much.

I hope these three people realise what pain and suffering they have caused."

Kevin's parents Katy, 57, and John Johnson, 56, said: "When we first heard the news we were distraught.

"Why could this happen to us? Why could a young life be wiped out in such a callous and senseless way? What a waste of a life.

"Over the weeks that followed, the worst weeks of our lives, we went through a turmoil of emotions and it was our lowest time.

We have lost a son and with that loss went a part of us that would never be regained.

"Up to the time of the funeral we were still expecting Kevin to walk into the room.

"Part of us couldn't or wouldn't accept he had gone.

"But the funeral brought the harsh reality home - it was now we felt hatred and anger.

"We are here today to prevent another parent's loss, a loss that is instantly felt by all and sundry but only remembered by a few. We are here for justice."

Detective Chief Inspector Roger Ford said it was a "brutal and cowardly killing," committed by three teenagers who showed "a complete lack of remorse for what they'd done.

He said: "This was a brutal and cowardly murder.

"These teenagers, who had been drinking beforehand before carrying out a sustained and vicious attack.

"They then showed a complete lack of remorse for what they did, although they were happy to boast to their friends and family about their activities that night.

"The fact these defendants can leave a man lying dying in the street and then go and attack someone else moments later shows their total lack of control and speaks volumes about their attitude to others."

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