From Devon & Cornwall Police:
A man has been jailed for 20 years for the murder of a homeless man in Exeter.
Brian Jewell stabbed 45-year-old Stephen Cook following an argument in Sidwell Street, Exeter, in January.
He denied murder but was convicted by a jury at Exeter Crown Court on Thursday 3 August following a two-week trial.
Jewell was sentenced on Monday 25 September to life for murder, to serve a minimum of 20 years, less 236 days for time spent on remand.
He was also sentenced for two unrelated charges: one for a separate offence of unlawful wounding of a man in May 2021, for which he was sentenced to one year. And for assaulting a prison officer while on remand, he was sentenced to 15 months, both to be served concurrently.
Mr Cook died as a result of a single stab wound to his chest after he got involved in a fight with Jewell on Saturday 28 January.
The court heard how, on the previous day, the knife had been bought for Jewell who had said he wanted it for his own safety.
Another witness recalled how, on Saturday 28 January, Mr Cook and Jewell, who were both known members of the street-attached community, got into a drunken argument, in which Mr Cook had threatened Jewell with a broken bottle.
The court heard that during the fight, Mr Cook had smashed and then swung a bottle at Jewell, who sustained a facial injury, prior to Jewell swinging his right arm towards Mr Cook and it is believed that it was at this point that the victim sustained the stab wound that led to his death.
During the early part of the altercation, the pair fell into the Betfred shop and were asked to leave, which they did. A few minutes later Mr Cook went into the shop again, but this time he was covered in blood.
Both the police and ambulance services were called to the scene at around 8.10pm and Mr Cook was taken to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, where he was pronounced dead just over an hour later.
Jewell was arrested later that evening on suspicion of murder and a witness led officers to where the knife had been hidden, near St Sidwell’s Church in Sidwell Street.
In sentencing Jewell, Mr Justice Saini said he took a number of factors into account when considering the outcome. These included Jewell’s age at the time of the murder, his remorse and background, lack of premeditation, and excessive self-defence.
Reacting to the sentencing, a member of the family said: “No number of years that Brian serves will ever suffice the pain we have suffered as a family when Dad was maliciously taken from us and although justice has been served, I wish that we could say the guilty verdict brought us happiness, but that is a feeling we struggle to feel as nothing will ever bring my Dad back into our lives.
“Lives will never be the same without Dad for many people, but Brian Jewell will continue living the life he chooses to lead for the rest of his, and one day will be released and continue to live, make decisions, see his family, and build relationships; something we can never pursue with Dad.
“As many are aware, Dad certainly had made mistakes, as have we all, but circulating comments online insinuate that he deserved to die.
“Although such hurtful comment doesn’t deserve our attention, these people are simply ignorant to addiction and uneducated in a social and legal environment and should know that he had a golden heart and a beautiful personality when he wasn’t intoxicated, and this side was disregarded in the trial, but he is so loved and missed every day.
“We hope that no one ever shares the harm we have endured throughout this time. Dad will forever be in our hearts and with us in spirit, but his joyful soul has gone forever. We miss and love him so much and despite his history, he did not deserve to die in such a horrendous way.
“The Crown Prosecution Service, our liaison officers, and the police have assisted throughout the case, offering support as much as they could, and we want to thank them for fighting for justice for Dad and restoring more faith in the system.”
Senior Investigating Officer Detective Inspector Rob Back, from the Force Major Crime Investigation Team, welcomed the sentence and said: “I welcome today’s sentence and would like to thank the jury in reaching their decision after careful and considered deliberation.
“This tragic case demonstrates the fatal consequences when a person chooses to arm themselves with a knife in the street and use it as a weapon against another.
“I’d like to commend Mr Cook’s family for the dignity and restraint they’ve demonstrated throughout this difficult trial. I hope that this verdict brings them some measure of closure and are now able to start to rebuild their lives.”
Joanna Clark, Senior Crown Prosecutor for CPS South West said: “This is sadly another stark reminder of the fatal consequences of carrying knives.
“Brian Jewell had armed himself that night with a knife and caused the death of Stephen Cook following an altercation outside a betting shop. My sincere thoughts remain with Mr Cook’s family, who I hope can find some comfort in knowing that his killer has been brought to justice.”
“Everybody has the right to feel safe in public and should be able to go about their daily lives without fear of being threatened with or harmed by knives. The CPS takes knife crime extremely seriously and we have worked together closely with Devon & Cornwall Police to bring this offender to justice.”