A heroin addict who stabbed a "defenceless" student to death in a bungled burglary was today jailed for a minimum of 26 years.
Prolific burglar Gareth Brear, 31, pleaded guilty at Leeds Crown Court to the murder of 20-year-old Joe Cook in his student accommodation in Leeds in August last year.
The court heard how Brear broke into the property on Ebberston Terrace, in the Hyde Park area of the city, and stabbed Mr Cook 15 times with a kitchen knife before ransacking the house and stealing a BMX bike.
Police found the student, from Newcastle upon Tyne, the following day, lying on his bed in his first-floor bedroom.
Today, friends and family of Mr Cook sobbed in the public gallery as the details of his murder were outlined.
A moving statement from his parents, Lesley and Nick Cook, was read to the court.
The couple said: "Joe was not in the wrong place, at the wrong time. He was in the right place, in his bed, in his room, in his student house. He should have been safe.
"Joe never knew violence, he had never been in a fight, Joe could offer no provocation, he had no defence.
"Our gentle Joe had no hope against a murderer determined to stab him to death.
"Joe's murderer did not bungle a burglary, he chose to discard Joe's life, then continue with his work."
Mr and Mrs Cook told in the statement how they, Mr Cook's younger sister, Eve, and extended family and friends had been devastated by the young man's death.
They said they saw their son a week before his murder, when he had been "excited" and looking forward to the year ahead, when he was due to begin his second year of a fine art degree at Leeds Metropolitan University.
The couple added: "All our soul-searching has a gut-wrenching twist.
"Did he know how much we loved him? Did we help him enough? Why would anyone want to hurt him? Why couldn't we save him?"
Tattooed Brear, who wore a grey and yellow striped jumper, hung his head as he listened to the parents' statement being read out.
Sentencing him to life in jail, Mr Justice Blair told him: "You have long been addicted to heroin and alcohol and commit burglary to pay for your addictions."
Speaking about Mr Cook, the judge said: "He was a very talented young man with a bright future, whose warm personality made him very popular with his many friends. Life for Joe Cook was always about the people he knew and loved.
"That future came to an end when he confronted you in the course of your burglary."
Mr Justice Blair continued: "Joe Cook had been in bed and was completely defenceless. You attacked him with the knife, causing multiple stab wounds. The forensic evidence suggests that as he lay dead, or dying, you continued to search before leaving the house."
He added: "This is a case which rightly has caused great public concern. No amount of remorse will bring Joe Cook back. His family, his friends and the university have suffered a terrible loss."
Graham Hyland QC, prosecuting, earlier outlined the details of the case to the court.
He said Mr Cook was alone in the six-bedroom house on the night of August 30 when Brear, who was high on drink and drugs, entered through a basement kitchen window.
Mr Hyland said the student sent a text message to a friend, saying: "There's someone in the house."
He added: "Tragically for him, he was right.
"That someone was this defendant, who had clearly entered the premises with the intention of committing burglary.
"It is the Crown's case that a confrontation took place between the two and when I say confrontation I mean that the defendant confronted the defenceless Mr Cook."
Mr Hyland told the court that Brear, from Leeds, stabbed his victim through his neck, chest, back and abdomen, puncturing his lung and causing huge internal bleeding.
He then slashed Mr Cook's thighs, probably after his death, before rifling through his cupboards, drawers and wallet.
He took a BMX bicycle, belonging to another housemate, which he later sold for £10.
Brear was arrested by police nearly a month after the murder after police were contacted by concerned staff at a homeless project, where the defendant repeatedly mentioned the murder to a support worker.
The court heard that Brear was released on licence in March last year from a three-year prison sentence for burglary.
He had a history of offending to feed his drug and drink addictions, which saw him taking methadone, heroin and alcohol on a daily basis, and had numerous previous convictions for burglary, theft and drug offences.
Brear also pleaded guilty today to a separate charge of attempted burglary, which he committed around three weeks after the murder.
Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Superintendent Bill Shackleton, of West Yorkshire Police's Homicide and Major Inquiry Team, said: "This was a particularly brutal killing where gratuitous wounds were inflicted on the victim after death.
"It is clear from the evidence that Brear was under the influence of drugs and alcohol and launched a violent attack on Joe when he encountered him in the house.
"Joe was physically small and is unlikely to have offered much resistance. The violence used by Brear was completely unnecessary and unwarranted.
"Brear's criminal lifestyle and drug and alcohol abuse made for a deadly combination which cost an innocent young man his life.
"Joe was universally liked and loved and had his whole life ahead of him. His death has left a gap for his family and friends that will never be filled.
"A murder in these circumstances is extremely rare but the tragedy still remains that a completely innocent young man has been murdered by an intruder in his home."Reuse content