A GANG of thugs have been jailed after setting on a father of three with swords, knives, and baseball bats.

Drug dealer Tommy Howlett led the group, and targeted the 39-year-old father of three in Durrington in Worthing.

They tried to blackmail the victim’s business partner, and carried out a “vicious” group attack that included as many as eight people.

The victim suffered a broken skull and multiple stab wounds, leading to a nearly fatal loss of blood. He was only saved because of the work of staff at Worthing Hospital and the Royal Sussex County Hospital.

A jury at Hove Crown Court found five of the gang guilty of the attack, and they were jailed for a total of 45 years combined.

The court heard the attack in February came from disagreement between drug dealers Howlett and Bradley Allen, and another man who was a business partner of the victim.

Howlett, 25, first damaged both the victims’ vehicles, and demanded money for him to stop.

They refused to pay, so Howlett threatened that their families and homes would be targeted.

Then the next day, the victims tried to reason with Howlett, at which point they were set upon by masked attackers in Carisbrooke Road.

Howlett stabbed the victim several times and Allen struck him in the face with a baseball bat.

Police then launched a six-month investigation to find the others involved, and even found that Howlett’s brother Jimmy had sent a text message expressing his regret at arriving too late to join in the violence.

Katherine Olive was a driver for the Howletts and the gang.

Gang members had contacted each other before the attack, and then left the scene together.

Tommy Howlett, of no fixed address, was jailed for 22 years for causing grievous bodily harm.

He was also given concurrent sentences for conspiracy to inflict grievous bodily harm, blackmail, possession of a blade, and criminal damage.

Allen, 27, of Orkney Court in Worthing was jailed for 15 years for causing grievous bodily harm, and concurrent sentences for blackmail and conspiracy.

Billy Howlett, 26, of Kingsland Close in Shoreham, was jailed for three years for the conspiracy.

As was 24-year-old Joshua Bosley, of Bulkington Avenue in West Tarring.

Katherine Olive, 20, of Harrow Road in West Worthing, was given an a two-year suspended prison sentence for conspiracy.

Callum Alex-Hunt, 24, of Butts Road in Shoreham,was found not guilty of conspiracy.