A 62-YEAR-OLD Chester man has been found guilty of attempting to murder his friend of more than 40 years.

Paul Andrews, of Alder Grove, Hoole, had driven Russell Feeney to his home on October 3, 2019, before plunging an eight-inch kitchen knife into Mr Feeney's back.

Andrews dashed out of the house with Mr Feeney – still with the knife in his back – following, saying: "Why did you do this to me? I loved you like a brother."

Andrews then drove straight to Blacon Police Station, leaving his long-term friend to die. When at the station, he told police he wanted to hand himself in, as he was responsible for a stabbing in Hoole.

Despite the initial confession, Andrews then gave a no comment interview and subsequently denied attempted murder, leading to a trial which took place at Chester Crown Court from September 14-18.

The jury of seven men and five women reached their unanimous guilty verdict after about two hours of deliberation.

Honorary Recorder of Chester Judge Steven Everett adjourned sentencing until the week beginning October 19 for a pre-sentence report to be compiled.

He said as there was "no explanation" for the stabbing, which came "out of the blue", and would consider handing Andrews a life sentence as his dangerousness would need to be evaluated.

The court heard during the trial Mr Feeney had suffered a brain haemorrhage in 1994 which had left him with limited mental capacity and short-term memory problems.

Andrews, known to the Feeney family as 'Andy the bull', had been "like a brother" to Mr Feeney, particularly after the brain haemorrhage, and they had "never had a bad word" between them.

Prosecuting, Mark Connor had told the jury that at about 3pm on October 3, neighbours went outside their homes to see Mr Feeney in pain with the knife stuck in his back. Mr Feeney had dialled 999 and passed the phone to an onlooker.

An air ambulance took Mr Feeney to Aintree Hospital, where surgeons removed the knife and dealt with his injuries – a cut and fractured rib and a punctured lung.

Evidence from an experienced pathologist said Mr Feeney was very fortunate the knife had not pierced his heart, and the knife had gone into the left side of the upper back with a "severe degree of force".

While in hospital, Mr Feeney told his partner of 42 years Belinda Feeney – known as Suki – he didn't want to tell her who had stabbed him as he didn't want them to be in trouble, saying they needed help.

He later told her Andrews had stabbed him, and wanted to visit him in jail, to ask him why he had done it.

Mr Feeney subsequently told investigating officer Detective Constable Roger Smith 'the bull' had stabbed him, but at a police video evidence-gathering session two weeks later, he refused to give a name, becoming emotional and distressed.

It was accepted, prior to the stabbing, Mr Feeney took cannabis, which the court heard was therapeutic for him, and Andrews and Mr Feeney would smoke cannabis together about once a week.

Andrews had a small cannabis farm upstairs at his house, which had 14 cannabis plants.

Giving evidence when questioned by defence barrister Brian Treadwell during the trial, Andrews claimed he would give cannabis to Mr Feeney for him to sell on, with the proceeds to be split 50-50.

He claimed he had read reports about people 'taxing' or 'robbing' drug dealers, and it was an unseen intruder who had attacked Mr Feeney, which caused Andrews to be in so much shock he drove to the police station to get put into custody for his own safety.

He told the jury: "I just wanted to be banged up and locked away, to be left alone."

But Mr Connor, cross-examining, said this was a "cock and bull story" Andrews had made up, adding: "You left him to die."

Andrews replied: "It's something I will never be able to understand or forgive myself."

Mr Connor asked why, if Andrews had not stabbed Mr Feeney, he said he had when he arrived at the police station.

"I don't know why I said it, I was in total shock," Andrews replied.

Mr Connor said the prosecution believed Andrews's story of an unseen intruder stabbing Mr Feeney was "rubbish".

Phone evidence of a man Andrews had accused of being the 'local thug' who had attacked Mr Feeney showed the phone was active in the Blacon area at the time of the stabbing and not Hoole.

While a police drugs expert accepted 14 cannabis plants found at the home would be "excessive" for personal use, there was no evidence of drug-dealing paraphernalia such as wraps, spare cash, crop rotation, or text messages on either Andrews's or Mr Feeney's mobile phones.

Andrews also told the jury, during questioning, he had not been in trouble with the police before, with this information based on the prosecution showing no record of previous convictions or cautions.

However, after Andrews's criminal record was double-checked over the lunch break on Wednesday, it emerged Andrews had a record for a number of previous convictions from 1974-1980 and one from 1994, for a variety of offences including burglary, stealing cars and threatening behaviour.

When Mr Treadwell asked him why he had not disclosed this, Andrews said the convictions were spent and did not believe they applied any more.

The jury also heard Andrews had pleaded guilty during this case to possession of a bladed article, as a result of him having a lock-knife on him when he arrived at Blacon Police Station.

Andrews was remanded in custody, and told by Judge Everett to expect a "significant" sentence.

Speaking after the sentencing, DCI Simon Draco said: “We still don’t know the reasons behind why Andrews stabbed his friend that day as he refused to answer any questions on interview despite our detectives’ best efforts to find out what had triggered such a violent, life threatening incident.

“What we do know is that that one single action left a man, who thought they were friends, betrayed and fighting for his life in hospital as surgeons and nurses worked to save him.

“He is still recovering from his life changing injuries and the emotional trauma of such an incomprehensible act, but I hope seeing Andrews brought to justice will help Russell in some way.

“I am pleased to say that detectives have delivered a cogent investigation that has resulted in the incarceration of a dangerous, violent offender who has used a knife in such a terrible way.”

David Keane, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire said: “It’s important that victims are supported throughout and get the justice they deserve.

“I hope the victim and his family find some solace in the guilty verdict and his attacker being brought to justice.

“This was a shocking act of violence and goes to show just how lethal knives can be and the impact it has on our communities.

“I truly hope the family can begin to rebuild their lives following this traumatic event.”