A KILLER who entered a family home armed with axes and murdered a father-of-seven in front of his horrified family has been sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 28 years.

Nathan Davis, 26, was convicted of the murder of Craig Barker and possessing two offensive weapons by a jury at Teesside Crown Court on Tuesday.

And the court heard that he had a history of entering people’s homes armed with weapons. Clad in a balaclava and wielding a machete and two petrol bombs, one of which exploded in the back garden, he had turned up at a home in 2016 to threaten an ex-girlfriend.

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He entered Mr Barker’s home one July morning last year, as the family slept in their beds, in a bid to find Mr Barker’s son Ethan Brannigan, who he believed had assaulted his girlfriend the previous night.

He was confronted with the family’s Staffordshire bull terrier Leo at the top of the stairs and battered the dog to within an inch of its life with one of the axes, in front of horrified family members including Mr Barker’s partner Sarah Brannigan and his son’s partner Claire McKittrick,

Davis then delivered a fatal axe blow to Mr Barker’s neck, which caused extensive brain damage.

At Teesside Crown Court today Judge Stephen Ashurst said: “I am satisfied you entered (the house) in hot temper, carrying an axe in each hand, not caring who or what got in your way.
“Sarah Brannigan and Claire McKittrick, with her young son in her arms, came on to the landing.

“They witnessed your sudden explosion of violence at very close quarters indeed.

“On being told there were young children in the house that cut no ice with you and you threatened that other members of the family would be next.

“As if it were not shocking enough you inflicting serious injuries on the family dog, worse was to come.”

Davis then turned to Mr Barker, who was coming out of the bathroom and told Davis to leave while attempting to defend himself.

Judge Ashurst said: “He picked up the only available item, a steam mop, but you hit him with an axe.”

A traumatic blow to the neck, added to Mr Barker twisting his neck away from the blow, damaged an artery in his neck which left him with irreparable brain damage.

Judge Ashurst described the trauma of the family in the aftermath of the incident.

Despite the air ambulance getting Mr Barker to James Cook University Hospital within eight minutes, he died, and the family dog also had to be put to sleep.

Davis, aware of the publicity around the case, went on the run for three days and was finally apprehended in Darlington after being chased by police down a railway line and towards a river.

Judge Ashurst said he ‘showed complete contempt for Mr Barker’s family’.

He added: “You have shown no remorse nor any hint of shame.”

Mr Barker’s seven children, wife and wider family had ‘all suffered’, the court was told.

Judge Ashurst described Davis as a 'career criminal', with 60 offences on his record.

"That record comprise convictions for violence, burglary, public disorder and anti social behaviour, possessing an imitation firearm, criminal damage and motoring offences.

"Of particular concern are three groups of offences... they were highly relevant to your propensity to enter other people's homes when armed and then to either attack or intimidate the occupants.

"They are equally important when it comes to sentence.

"First, in March 2014 you forced entry into the home of a woman, smashing her windows and entering her bedroom with a knife demanding to know where her son was as you were going to 'smash him up'.

"Second, in May 2016, whilst subject to a restraining order in respect of your former partner, you turned up at her cousin's home where she was present. You were wearing a balaclava and carrying a machete and petrol bombs, one of which exploded in the garden.

"Third, in May 2018 (only two months before the fatal attack on Craig Barker) you were convicted of breaking into a house in December 2017 and assaulting (a woman).

"The common sense conclusion can only be that you have proved yourself to be a ruthless and highly dangerous offender. That track record of violence and intimidation towards others has sadly escalated to a level where an innocent family man has been killed."