A man from Hereford has been sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering his friend in the city in August last year.
At Worcester Crown Court today, Stacy Hales, aged 36, of Belmont Road, Hereford, was found guilty of murdering Steven Paynter, aged 46.
He was sentenced to life with a recommendation that he serves a minimum of 22 years in prison.
When passing the sentence, Judge Robert Juckes QC, said: “Stacy Hales, you attacked Mr Paynter in his own home and having disarmed him you used his own knife upon him. When you walked back with the others (Munn and Edwards) you were to some extent showing off about what you had done, not expressing remorse.”
Following a two-week trial, a jury found Hales was responsible for stabbing Mr Paynter, known to friends as Taffy, during a fight at his home in Rylands Street.
Also sentenced today were Stephen Munn, aged 21, of Golden Post, Hunderton, Hereford, and Mark Edwards, aged 22, of Prior Street, Moorfields, Hereford.
They received 30 months each after pleading guilty to the offence of violent disorder at the start of the trial.
Hales stood trial with his girlfriend - Kim Horry, aged 20, of Copse Cross Street, Ross-on-Wye – who was charged with assisting an offender.
A jury found her not guilty today.
The jury heard how on the afternoon of August 3, Hales, Munn and Edwards went to Mr Paynter’s flat in Ryelands Street to demand he pay back £40 he owed Hales for bike parts.
The jury was told that Hales, who is known as Buzz, took exception that his friend was having a relationship with Joanne Fryer because she had previously been in a relationship with him.
A witness, who cannot be named for legal reasons, stated that Hales had become violent as soon as he arrived at the flat and assaulted and strangled Mr Paynter, who armed himself with a knife.
Munn and Edwards remained outside the flat and when the witness attempted to leave they blocked his path.
Philip Bennetts QC, prosecuting, said the fight between Hales and Paynter continued and ended when Hales stabbed Paynter in the neck with a large kitchen knife.
The court was told that the knife was found by police officers in a communal shower room next to the flat.
Hales, Munn and Edwards made off from the flat while Mr Paynter collapsed in the vestibule outside his door and died through loss of blood. Other residents in the multi-occupancy property raised the alarm and called the emergency services.
Meanwhile, Hales, along with Munn and Edwards, fled to his home address on Belmont Road where he cleaned himself and got first aid for a cut to his arm.
The jury was told that once the emergency services had attended, Hales was quickly identified by witnesses as Mr Paynter’s attacker and he was arrested by police within a few hours.
After sentencing, Detective Inspector Dave Williams, who led the investigation, said: “In court, Hales claimed he did not see a knife and only saw ‘a flash’. He denied ever handling a knife during the struggle and could not account for how Mr Paynter suffered the fatal injury.
“However, we are convinced Hales went to that flat with the intention of doing serious harm to Mr Paynter: he had made threats about this earlier in the day, he took along two henchmen – Munn and Edwards – and deliberately wore steel toe-capped boots in anticipation of violence.
“I find it very sad that Hales’ moment of madness over relatively trivial matters has led to Steven Paynter’s murder and he has been cruelly taken away from his family, including his two children. Our thoughts are with them at this very distressing time.
“At the time, his death also caused great concern to those living in and around Ryelands Street and the wider Hereford community and I hope I can reassure them that this was an isolated incident that stemmed from a dispute between parties known to each other.
“I would like to thank all those who assisted with the investigation in a variety of ways and thank those who were inconvenienced by the investigation particularly those affected by the closure of Ryelands Street for some days due to essential forensic examination.”
Following today’s sentencing, Steven Paynter’s family released a statement.
It read: “As a family we are delighted that justice has been seen to be done today, however nothing is going to bring Steven back to us.
“What happened is a tragic waste of a human life and Steven leaves behind two children, family and friends.
“Steven’s death has come as a shock and has devastated his family and friends: this is something we will never recover from.
“We are grateful to the police for their work and the support they have given us.”