The heartbroken family of man murdered following a row in a pub have spoken of the devastation of their loss following his killer's conviction.

Craig Gill was knocked unconscious while he was enjoying his regular few pints in a town centre bar following a row about a puppy wandering around the pub.

The 61-year-old suffered fatal head injuries as a result of Richard Smith-Slater delivering four powerful punches to his head on July 8 last year.

Teesside Crown Court heard how Mr Gill died several days later without ever regaining consciousness - leaving his family devastated.

The Northern Echo: Craig GillCraig Gill (Image: Durham Constabulary)

A powerful victim impact statement from his family outlined the pain and suffering they had endured since their beloved son, brother, and uncle, was senselessly murdered.

Nick Dry, prosecuting, read out the statement on the family’s behalf before the 33-year-old father-of two was given a life sentence and told he would serve a minimum of 14 years in custody.

“It is almost impossible to find the words to describe the devastation his death has brought upon us all,” they wrote.

“Craig always had a happy, cheerful disposition. The love of his family has enabled him to live a full life – this was the case until the terrible events of July 8.

“Turning off his life support machine robbed us of a loving brother, uncle, and son. This has been a living nightmare for our family that has continued to this day.”

Jurors watched CCTV footage from inside the pub where Smith-Slater delivered the fatal blows in a matter of seconds when the pair clashed about the Staffordshire bull terrier puppy.

The Northern Echo: Richard Smith-SlaterRichard Smith-Slater (Image: Durham Constabulary)

Speaking outside of court, Detective Chief Inspector Chris Smiles, of Durham Constabulary, said: “This is a tragedy that was completely unnecessary and avoidable.

“Whatever this row was about, one thing is for sure, Craig Gill should not have lost his life because of it.

“Smith-Slater claimed self-defence, but he was the only one throwing punches – he could have just walked away.

“Time and again we see the devastating consequences of this type of incident. It must stop.

See more court stories from The Northern Echo by clicking here

Get all the latest crime and court updates, for less than the price of a coffee, with a Premium Plus digital subscription to The Northern Echo. Click here

“My thoughts are with Craig’s family and friends who are having to come to terms with losing him because of a needless row.

“Nothing will bring him back, but hope is they can now grieve now justice has been done.”

Smith-Slater, of Bury Road, Newton Aycliffe, was found guilty of murder following a trial at Teesside Crown Court.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment and told her would serve at least 14 years before being considered for parole.