Man guilty of murdering Widnes pub landlord over ban

  • Published
Media caption,

Lee Abbott confronted Mr Thornton outside the pub after he was barred

A man has been found guilty of murdering a landlord who barred him from his pub for "bragging about carrying a knife".

Lee Abbott stabbed Christian Thornton, 11 times outside the Hammer and Pincers in Widnes, Cheshire, in August after a "heated exchange" over his ban.

Abbott, 35, admitted "seeing red" over the ban and killing 49-year-old Mr Thornton, but denied his murder.

He was convicted at Liverpool Crown Court and will be sentenced on Friday.

Abbott, of Rose Street, Widnes, had gone to the Hammer and Pincers on 3 August to argue against his ban for bragging about carrying a knife, Cheshire Police said.

When Mr Thornton said he would not change his mind, Abbott threatened to burn down the pub.

Image source, Cheshire Police
Image caption,
Lee Abbott admitted manslaughter but denied murder

The Crown Prosecution Service said Mr Thornton contacted the local Pubwatch scheme that warns other pub managers of possibly difficult customers and the group voted to bar Abbott from all premises in the area for 12 months.

Jurors were told when Abbott found out he went to the pub armed with a large knife.

Mr Thornton, who had been landlord of the pub for 16 years, ordered him to leave resulting in a "heated exchange" outside.

Abbott pulled a knife from a backpack and repeatedly stabbed the father-of-three while he was on the phone to the police. Mr Thornton died at the scene.

Image source, Family photograph
Image caption,
Christian Thornton's murder had "left three children without their father, and his wife, Pam, has lost a loving husband", police said

Abbott was arrested about an hour later and told officers: "You don't need any evidence, I stabbed him."

His barrister had told the court Abbott did not have the intent to murder as he was heavily intoxicated and had diminished responsibility on the basis of an abnormality of mental functioning.

His estranged wife Kerri Abbott had told jurors the defendant had believed he was Jesus and had episodes where he would "lose touch with reality".

Det Insp Kate Tomlinson said: "Abbott's actions that day have torn a family apart and rocked the local community.

"Christian was a well-known character locally, he did so much for local charities and will be greatly missed by many."

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