LEE Abbott has been found unanimously guilty of the murder of pub landlord Christian Thornton.

The dad-of-three was stabbed to death at the age of 49 outside the Hammers and Pincers in Widnes, where he had been landlord for 16 years, in summer last year.

Today, Thursday, 35-year-old Abbott was convicted of his murder after an eight-day trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

Runcorn and Widnes World:

Lee Abbott

Detective inspector Kate Tomlinson, who led Cheshire Police’s investigation into the murder, said: “Abbott’s actions that day have torn a family apart and rocked the local community.

“Christian was a well-known character locally, he did so much for local charities and will be greatly missed by many.

“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.

Runcorn and Widnes World:

Christian Thornton

“Their pain has been increased by the fact that they have been made to sit through an eight-day trial and relive what happened on that day.

“The courage and dignity that they have shown throughout this investigation and subsequent trial has been immeasurable.

“Nothing will ever bring Christian back, but I just hope that following today’s verdict all those who knew and loved him can now in some way start to move forward and rebuild their lives.”

Abbott, of Rose Street, denied murder but had previously admitted manslaughter.

The killer was barred from the Liverpool Road pub nine days before the fatal attack after he was heard bragging about carrying a knife.

Mr Thornton also added him to the Widnes Pubwatch list, banning him from every licensed premises in the town.

Abbott returned to the Hammer and Pincers shortly after 3pm on Sunday, August 11 2019.

He began to walk away from the pub after being asked to leave, before running back towards Mr Thornton and stabbed him 11 times in 21 seconds.

Runcorn and Widnes World:

Pictures of the jacket Mr Thornton was wearing at the time of his death, showing where the stab wounds were inflicted

Runcorn and Widnes World:

DI Tomlinson added: “This has been a very sad and distressing investigation, and I would like to highlight the efforts of all those officers who attended on the day and tried so valiantly to save Christian’s life and to thank those who have assisted with the subsequent investigation.

“The professionalism and dedication of all those involved is admirable and shows their commitment to achieving justice for Christian and his family.”

Abbott was convicted of attempted murder in July 2002, having fractured a man’s skull by hitting him over the head with a hammer several times in an incident the previous November.

Superintendent Simon Parsonage said: “Our thoughts remain with Christian’s family and friends who live with the consequences of this tragic incident every day.

“This incident has had a significant impact across the whole community and I hope that Abbott’s conviction will provide some reassurance to those affected.

“I also hope that the circumstances of Christian’s death will deter others from carrying a knife.

Runcorn and Widnes World:

Abbott lunging at Christian Thornton with the knife

“Sadly, this is a stark reminder of the devastating consequences that carrying a knife can have for victims, offenders and their families. We will continue to work closely with the local community and partners to tackle knife crime and to send a clear message that carrying weapons will not be tolerated.”

Abbott will be sentenced back at Liverpool Crown Court tomorrow, Friday.

Caroline Ross, of the Crown Prosecution Service, added: “This is a tragic case of a hardworking, law-abiding businessman falling victim to a violent thug in full view of innocent bystanders.

“The CPS would first of all like to extend our sincere condolences to the family of Mr Thornton, they have acted with great dignity throughout this process.

“The CPS rejected Lee Abbott’s claims that he didn’t intend to kill Mr Thornton.

“To prove a charge of murder, it is necessary to show that the defendant intended to either kill the victim or cause grievous bodily harm.

“The CPS said that Abbott ran at Mr Thornton with a large knife and stabbed him several times.

“On the facts of this case it was clear that Abbott’s intention was to cause serious harm to Mr Thornton – the jury has agreed with our case.

“Abbott is a violent man whose actions on that day have devastated a family.”