AN Ellesmere Port man has been sentenced following the death of 31-year-old Steven Carey in Ellesmere Port.

Ben Steven Wilkinson, 25, of Waverton Road, Great Sutton, had pleaded guilty to manslaughter and possession of a knife.

On Friday, November 27, Wilkinson was jailed for a total of 16 years at his sentencing at Chester Crown Court – 14 years for the manslaughter and two years for possessing the knife used in the fatal stabbing of Mr Carey.

The previous day, the 25-year-old was found not guilty of murder following a trial spanning almost two weeks.

The court heard how officers were called just before 8.50pm on Saturday, March 14 to Pooltown Road following reports of a disturbance.

Wilkinson had been at his former partner’s house – against his bail conditions – when Mr Carey came to speak to him regarding an £80 cocaine debt.

This led to an argument between the pair and a fight broke out between them in the street.

At some point during the disagreement Wilkinson removed a knife from the waistband of his trousers and stabbed Mr Carey three times across the lower and upper back, while Mr Carey was on his knees getting up, facing away from Wilkinson.

Mr Carey managed to walk towards Regent Street where he collapsed.

Two teenage witnesses had seen the fight and had heard Mr Carey say: "You just f***ing stabbed me."

They dialled 999 and ensured officers swiftly attended the scene to find Mr Carey seriously injured.

He told them that it was Wilkinson who had stabbed him.

Officers tried to help Mr Carey until paramedics arrived. He was then taken to the Countess of Chester Hospital but, despite the best efforts of all involved, he died at 9.55pm.

Following the incident, Wilkinson fled the scene.

He deposited the knife in the sink of his partner at the time's house on Pooltown Road, before making his way to a friend’s address on Bostock Road.

While there, he exchanged clothing with the friend and asked to hide in the shed, with the door being locked behind and the key hidden.

He was later found by officers and subsequently arrested on suspicion of murder.

The green-handled kitchen knife was seized at the property and was later found to have DNA on it from the victim.

Detectives questioned Wilkinson and, two days later, he was subsequently charged with murder.

During police interview, when asked why Wilkinson hadn’t called 999 after the stabbing, if he hadn’t intended to hurt Mr Carey, he replied: “I didn’t [think], I just panicked and ran off.

“I made a rash decision and will have to live with it.”

The trial judge, Justice Michael Leeming, called Wilkinson a "coward" for leaving his victim to die and trying to cover his own tracks.

He had shown "no true remorse" for his part, and only pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the first day of his trial.

Wilkinson had 14 previous convictions for 32 offences, including assault, battery, witness intimidation, a threat to a 16-year-old witness that he would petrol-bomb their house, robbery, attempted robbery and affray.

His most previous conviction, prior to the stabbing, was for throwing a piece of wood at his former partner.

A moving victim impact statement was read out in court on behalf of Mr Carey's mother, speaking of the devastation the family have suffered from his loss, of a "loving brother and son", that "will take years to overcome."

The family stressed there was "so much more" to Steven Carey than what the trial jury had heard in his involvement with drugs, of a young man who had just celebrated his 31st birthday, and his life was "cruelly cut short".

The family had been unable to say goodbye to Mr Carey in the way they had wanted to, due to the coronavirus lockdown, but Mr Carey "should not even have been in this situation".

One small comfort was the officers who had come to Mr Carey when he was on Regent Street, with one of the officers holding Mr Carey's hand to provide reassurance, and the other attempting CPR on Mr Carey before paramedics arrived.

The two officers, PC Dave Smith and PC Chris Fry, who went beyond the course of duty in attempting to save Mr Carey’s life and comfort him in his last moments were awarded a judge’s commendation for their efforts.

The two teenage witnesses were also commended for their actions in dialling 999, ensuring officers and paramedics were dispatched to the scene swiftly, and for giving evidence and being cross-examined in recorded hearings held prior to the trial, and which were broadcast to the courtroom.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Hughes said: “This was a vicious attack which left Steven with catastrophic injuries.

“I would like to praise the actions of the officers who were first on scene – who tried to save Steven’s life and acted swiftly to apprehend Wilkinson and trace the weapon. I’d also like to thank the team of detectives who worked hard to secure a conviction in this case.

“Wilkinson’s actions have caused devastation to Steven’s family and they have had to relive the details of what happened during this 10-day trial. This has been incredibly difficult for them.”

Detective Sergeant Steve McCabe added: “I’d like to thank everyone who worked on this case to help us secure this conviction.

“Nothing will bring Steven back and our thoughts remain with his family and friends who have to live with the consequences of Wilkinson’s actions.”

Police and Crime Commissioner David Keane said: “I would like to commend the swift actions of the officers first in attendance and the work behind the scenes by the investigation team to bring this case before the courts.

“My thoughts are with Steven’s family and friends at this difficult time. I hope that this conviction will help them come to terms with their loss.”

Wilkinson must serve a minimum of two-thirds of his 16-year jail term in prison – 10 years, eight months – before he can be released on licence.