A GRIEVING homeless man recovering from cancer has been told a treasured lock knife given to him by his late father must be destroyed.

Stephen Whelan, 51, from Chester, was in his Ford Transit van when police stopped him on Stamford Road in Blacon at around 2pm on June 24 this year.

He had been sleeping rough in the vehicle, which contained all of his possessions including the knife stored in the dashboard cup holder.

Prosecuting at Chester Magistrates Court on Friday (July 12), Rob Youds said: “He said his dad had left him the knife. It was in his van because he is of no fixed abode.”

Officers arrested him for possession of a bladed article, an offence to which he pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.

The court heard that Whelan has 18 previous convictions for 32 offences.

Richard Sibeon, defending, stressed his client had been living in a van and simply had all of his belongings with him, including the knife his father had given him.

Whelan, who suffers with anxiety and depression, had been struggling since losing his partner around three months ago.

He had also been undergoing treatment after having a tumour removed from his oesophagus – the tube between the mouth and stomach.

Whelan broke down in the dock as details of his life were presented to the court in mitigation.

As knife crime of any kind is treated so seriously now in the UK, he was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison suspended for a year.

He must also carry out 35 days of rehabilitation activity and pay a £115 victim surcharge, which will be deducted from his benefits.

To Whelan’s anguish, magistrates also said they had no choice other than to order the destruction of the lock knife.

“There is no leeway on this I’m afraid,” said chair of the bench Paul Storrar.