LEE Abbott has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 28 years for the murder of pub landlord Christian Thornton.

The 35-year-old was yesterday found unanimously guilty of murdering the dad-of-three after stabbing him to death outside the Hammers and Pincers pub in Widnes in summer last year.

Runcorn and Widnes World:

Lee Abbott

Today, Friday, he was handed a life sentence for the killing at Liverpool Crown Court – and must serve at least 28 years behind bars.

Mr Thornton’s widow Pam paid tribute to her late 49-year-old husband after the sentencing.

In a statement, she said: “Today, justice has been done and Lee Abbott has been held accountable for murdering Chris.

“On Sunday, August 11, 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.

Runcorn and Widnes World:

Christian Thornton

“I would like to thank everyone who has worked tirelessly to ensure justice prevailed today, especially prosecution barrister David McLachlan, detective inspector Kate Tomlinson and their teams. “I would also like to thank my family, friends and Chris’ family for their support at this truly awful time.

“I ask now that my family are left alone and given the privacy to start to rebuild our lives.”

Abbott, of Rose Street, previously admitted manslaughter but was found guilty of murder by a jury after an eight-day trial.

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.

The defendant was previously convicted of attempted murder in July 2002, having fractured a man’s skull by hitting him over the head with a hammer several times during an incident in November 2001.

Superintendent Laura Marler said: “I want to praise the bravery and courage of Christian’s family and friends throughout this difficult trial.

“Our thoughts remain with his loving family, who have to live with the consequences of this tragic incident every day.

Runcorn and Widnes World:

CCTV of Abbott lunging at Mr Thornton with the knife

“I know that the whole community were left shaken by this incident and I hope that Abbott’s conviction will provide reassurance to those who are affected.

“I also want to take this time to recognise the dedication and professionalism of all officers and police staff who have been involved within the investigation.

“It is down to their hard work that we have brought Abbott to justice.

Runcorn and Widnes World:

Bodycam footage of Abbott being arrested by armed police

“We are doing all we can to tackle knife crime by working with our partners and members of the community to educate and prevent people from choosing to carry a knife.

“Our aim is to do all we can to keep people safe against those who are intent on causing harm to others, and I hope that the circumstances of Christian’s death will deter others from carrying a weapon.

“Our message is clear – carrying weapons will not be tolerated, and anyone found with a knife will be brought to justice.”