A drug dealer knifed a grieving widower to death and then laughed and joked about the fatal attack with a friend.
Adam White, 22, stabbed Jeff Burrows so hard with a kitchen knife that the blade went through his stomach and damaged the 39-year-old’s backbone.
After a three-week trial at Lewes Crown Court, White was found not guilty of the murder of Mr Burrows but was convicted of manslaughter.
Joel Elliott, 22, who accompanied White to the victim’s Norfolk Square flat in Brighton and joined in celebrations minutes later in a nearby bar, was found not guilty of any offence.
The distraught family of Mr Burrows looked on in disbelief as the verdict was returned.
After the killing, White and Elliott were caught on CCTV going for drinks at Caps Bar in Western Road.
Inside they hug, kiss, shake hands and re-enact the stabbing while drinking.
They are then seen getting on the number 49 bus to the Clock Tower and visiting Yates’s Bar in West Street, where they had more to drink.
Inside they embraced again before White threw his jacket in the bin.
Police, who have been working on the case since April, described the result of the trial as “disappointing”.
Mr Burrows’ father, David, who sat through the entire trial with his other son, Ian, described the killing as a “living nightmare”.
Following the verdict, he said: “We are still deeply shocked and distressed that Jeff has been taken from us in this way.
“He was a much-loved son and brother.
“Jeff is and will always be sadly missed, especially that cheeky and mischievous smile of his.”
White, of Bedford Place, Liverpool, burst into tears when the jury returned its verdicts.
In the public gallery, Elliott’s friends and family also wept with delight as he was led out of the same door as Burrows’ grieving family.
The trial heard that builder Jeff had lived in Brighton since emigrating from Northern Ireland in the late 1990s but increasingly turned to drugs after his wife died.
Despite continuing to work full-time, he struggled to fund his habit.
In an act of desperation he sold a stolen scooter to his drug dealer – White – in exchange for drugs and money.
But after the vehicle was confiscated by police and, with Mr Burrows still owing White money, the dealer came after him.
White told friends that he would “sort Burrows” and took a knife to his victim’s Norfolk Square flat on the evening of April 29.
Elliott, of North Road, Brighton, told the court he did not know that White had a knife and said when they arrived Mr Burrows had attacked them with a mini baseball bat that they managed to wrestle from him.
White then plunged the blade into the victim’s stomach. He claims his jacket was pulled over his head by Burrows so that he couldn’t see.
The assault was so loud that a cleaner downstairs mistook it for an earthquake.
Mr Burrows’ next door neighbour and best friend Marc Davis rushed over to find his pal bleeding to death, with a kitchen stool pinning him to the ground.
Detective Superintendent Nick Sloan, who led the investigation, said: “This tragic death stemmed from a trivial dispute about drugs and a stolen scooter.
“My officers and staff carried out a very professional, meticulous, investigation which quickly identified White, and enabled us to arrest him in Liverpool.
“Our thoughts are very much with Jeff’s family, who sat through the trial with great dignity, hearing very distressing evidence about the way in which their loved one was killed.”
White will be sentenced on January 3.
‘Jeff was a gentle giant who wouldn’t hurt a fly’
Jeff Burrows was well known in the pubs in and around Western Road as an animal loving “gentle giant”.
So how, on April 29 this year, did the 39-year-old end up being brutally stabbed to death by a drug dealer?
Mr Burrows was brought up in Dungannon, Northern Ireland.
In his early years he excelled at playing the bagpipes and was part of the Field Marshal Montgomery Bagpipe team which won the world championships.
In 1997 he relocated to Brighton to escape the Troubles back home.
He started work as a builder and was part of the team which redeveloped Churchill Square – an achievement he was extremely proud of.
He made a life for himself in the city and while he stayed in regular contact with family in Ireland, was proud to call Brighton home.
Recently, he met and fell in love Brione Dene, who was terminally ill with cancer.
He dedicated his life to caring for both her and her dog, Winston.
In January this year, with her health fading, the couple decided to get married in her hospice room.
Tragically she died the following day.
Overcome with grief, Mr Burrows increasingly turned to drugs.
Despite continuing to work as a site foreman, he struggled to fund his habit and in desperation sold a stolen scooter to White – his dealer.
When police confiscated the stolen vehicle and with money still owing, White went round to Mr Burrows’ Norfolk Square flat.
Mark Rusling, paid tribute to his friend following the verdict.
He said: “He was such a lovely man. A real gentle giant. I got to know him towards the end of his life and he would do anything for his friends.
“He adored his little dog Winston and wouldn’t be seen without him.
“Just such a laid back man. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
See the latest news headlines from The Argus:
- MP: Jeremy Corbyn will lose me my job
- Top office block to be converted into flats after seven-figure sale
- Cafe can reopen now travellers move on - but other city parks suffer
- Police hunt taxi driver after hit and run involving 13-year-old girl
- Parents create children's book to explain dialysis