The family of a man brutally stabbed to death by his drinking buddy in a ferocious attack have spoken of the horror of finding his body.

Maurice Bennett, known as Moza, suffered almost 50 stab wounds to his head and neck when his friend David Thompson-Love launched the "utterly inexplicable and astonishing” attack.

The 54-year-old’s body was discovered by his sister and partner when they became increasingly concerned about him when they couldn’t contact him.

And the horrific scene the uncovered has left them traumatised and struggling to come to terms with the depravity of their loved one’s murder at the hand of his supposed friends.

The Northern Echo: Maurice 'Moza' BennettMaurice 'Moza' Bennett (Image: Cleveland Police)

In a victim impact statement read out at Teesside Crown Court, his sister Susan laid bare the family’s suffering and heartbreak.

“I just feel empty,” she said. “On April 7, my family’s whole world changed. No one should ever have to see an image like that. No one should ever have to see that. We have listened to the details of the horrendous injuries inflicted on Moza.

“We will never truly know what happened that night. Why Dave did what he did? Why didn’t you call the emergency services? Why didn’t you get Moza help?”

Mr Bennett’s family issued a statement through Cleveland Police saying: “As a family we know we now have to come to terms with never seeing our lovely caring brother, uncle, and fiancé Moza again especially over Christmas. Christmas was Moza’s favourite day and the only day he ever went out - he loved Christmas day.

“But what we will never understand or forgive is why?

“Why did you so brutally murder your best friend, your friend who always had your back.

“In our eyes you’re nothing but a coward.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank the team at Cleveland Police for the investigation and to all the other agencies that have been involved in helping and supporting us as a family through this extremely difficult time.”

The Northern Echo: Maurice 'Moza' Bennett with his late fatherMaurice 'Moza' Bennett with his late father (Image: Family handout)

Judge Paul Watson KC, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, passed a life sentence and told the defendant that he would serve a minimum of 18 years and four months in custody for the "utterly inexplicable and astonishing" murder.

Speaking after today’s sentencing Senior Investigating Officer Homicide and Major Enquiry Team (HMET) Inspector Matt Hollingsworth said: “Maurice Bennett was a vulnerable man whose life was taken from him in the most brutal circumstances, by someone he thought was a friend.

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“He sustained horrific injuries in this attack - one of those proving to be fatal - and tragically Maurice was found by family members. I can`t imagine the shock, horror, and trauma this must have caused.

“The enquiry team worked tirelessly to build a strong case against David Thompson-Love and our work in partnership with the Crown Prosecution Service to present the case, meant he was left with no option but to plead guilty to murder.

“I do hope today’s sentence will in time bring a degree of comfort to Mr Bennett`s family. On behalf of everyone involved in the investigation I thank them all for their support and I wish them well as they continue to come to terms with what happened.”

Thompson-Love, of Oakrise, Middlesbrough, pleaded guilty to murder following the brutal attack on April 7 this year.