A MAN has been sentenced to life, with a minimum of 19 years in prison, after being found guilty of murder for stabbing another man to death in a back lane.

Richard Lee, from Sacriston, near Chester-le-Street, County Durham, had denied murdering Ryan Nathan Thompson, a 25-year-old joiner from the village, who died after receiving a single stab wound to the chest.

But a jury at Newcastle Crown Court found Lee guilty after hearing about the sequence events leading up to the fatal stabbing, which happened in the back lane of Gregson Street, on September 1 last year.

They found him guilty of murder and possession of a offensive weapon after reaching a majority verdict following more than eight hours of discussion.

Lee, who had been drinking and had taken cocaine earlier that night, had armed himself with a large kitchen knife to tackle burglars breaking into Mr Thompson’s garage, where he kept a number of beloved bikes.

Bare-chested, the 25-year-old had grabbed the weapon from his girlfriend's kitchen to scare off the burglars, and after they ran from the scene, was seen brandishing it and shouting “I’m Richie Lee, I rule this street.”

But when Mr Thompson arrived on the scene, a confrontation erupted between them, when he appeared to believe it was Lee who was stealing the bikes.

After accusing Lee of being a thief and throwing a punch, Mr Thompson was then forced into retreat and was chased about 30m down the lane by Lee, who was seen slashing the weapon.

The fatal wound was an upward thrust to the chest, which went through the cartilage between his ribs, damaging muscle at the front of his heart.

Fleeing the scene, Lee hid the knife, which was never found, in a drain and was arrested about an hour later near his home in Viola Crescent.

Despite undergoing emergency surgery, paramedics were unable to save Mr Thompson, who died while on route to hospital, shortly after midnight on September 2.

Lee,who served in the army in 2017, had claimed the stabbing was a “terrible accident” and had said he was slashing the blade in self-defence, in a bid to scare off Mr Thompson because he believed he was going to be "pummelled".

On Tuesday, he told jurors he did not realise Mr Thompson had died of a thrust wound until Monday, when he heard evidence from Home Office pathologist Dr Peter Cooper.