Kickboxer who murdered landlord in frenzied knife attack after being barred from pub is jailed for life

Killing ‘destroyed my life and the lives of our three children’, says Christian Thornton’s widow

Colin Drury
Friday 21 February 2020 14:45
Man found guilty of murdering Widnes pub landlord

A kickboxer who murdered a landlord after being barred from his pub has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 28 years.

Lee Abbott repeatedly knifed Christian Thornton after he was banned from the Hammer and Pincers in Widnes for bragging about carrying the weapon.

The 35-year-old stabbed the father of three 11 times in just 21 seconds, Liverpool Crown Court was told during his trial.

When police arrested him at a friend’s house an hour later, he told them: “Is he dead? I done it, yeah.”

Bodycam footage from one officer shows Abbott, a former drug user, bare-chested and handcuffed, saying: “It’s my fault, yeah. Anything you need me to admit I will. I’m not gonna deny f*** all. I’m not gonna resist arrest.”

The murder occurred nine days after Mr Thornton – who had run the pub for 16 years – kicked Abbott out.

Abbott was then placed on the Cheshire town’s Pubwatch list, meaning he was barred from all local licensed premises for 12 months.

When he found out about the ban, he returned to the Hammer and Pincers on 11 August and threatened to burn it down, before producing a knife from his rucksack.

CCTV footage released by Cheshire Police on Friday shows him charging at Mr Thornton, who was already on the phone to officers at the time.

A witness, David Johnson, later told police: “There was no stopping him, he just ran like a mad man.”

Abbott admitted manslaughter but denied murder on the grounds that he did not intend to kill and had diminished responsibility on the basis of an abnormality of mental functioning. On Thursday afternoon, the jury found him guilty of murder.

Speaking after the sentencing on Friday, Mr Thornton’s widow, Pam, said justice had been done.

She said: “Lee Abbott not only took my husband’s life but also destroyed my life and the lives of our three children.

“Since that day, the indescribable pain I have lived with has been multiplied as I watch our children try to come to terms with losing their dad in such a violent way.

“They do so with dignity and strength that would make their dad proud.”

Detective Inspector Kate Tomlinson, of Cheshire Police, said that Mr Thornton had been a “well-known character” who will be “greatly missed by many”.

“Abbott’s actions that day have torn a family apart and rocked the local community,” she said.

“Before the incident, Abbott had the opportunity to walk away, but instead he made a conscious decision to return and attack Christian, which ultimately resulted in his death.

“This has left three children without their father, and his wife, Pam, has lost a loving husband.”

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