A boxer who deliberately stabbed his love rival in the neck has been jailed for life.
Ashley King said that he acted in self-defence when he inflicted the fatal blow as Gareth Atkinson stood in the doorway of his girlfriend Jade Walker-Saunders’ flat in Lockwood.
But a jury rejected his claims and found him guilty of murder following a 10 day trial at Leeds Crown Court.
Mr Justice Nicklin jailed the 29-year-old for life in prison with a minimum term of 17 years.
He told King that the pair’s shared relationship with Miss Walker-Saunders and another woman named Shaunie Haig became the focus of his rage against the popular doorman and culminated in his death.
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He said: ‘It’s clear that you and Mr Atkinson did not like each other. From the text and social media messages I have seen you made the running and fuelled the dispute between you.
‘I’m sure Mr Atkinson spent the last day of his life genuinely in fear that you were going to attempt to kill him.’
And the packed courtroom heard heartbreaking statements from Mr Atkinson’s parents Michael and Helen and his sister Kirsty who told of her devastation at the 25-year-old missing her wedding following his death shortly before midnight on May 8.
King, of no fixed address, claimed during his trial that his threats to harm Mr Atkinson were just words and he only intended to settle their differences in the boxing ring.
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But over an 18 month period King bombarded him with hundreds of messages which became ‘increasingly more strident in tone and more serious in threat’, Mr Justice Nicklin said.
Things came to a head on the day Mr Atkinson, from Meltham, was murdered when King turned up at Miss Walker-Saunders’ flat.
Mr Justice Nicklin told King: ‘You stood outside the flat brandishing a truly horrible home made weapon.
‘It was a pick axe handle and you had embedded some 40 screws in the upper third. The weapon was designed by you and if used would have created the most horrific injuries.’
King claimed that he was frightened of Mr Atkinson as he was known to carry knives.
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But the judge rejected his claim that he intended to defend himself and stated that his own past convictions, including two robberies, highlighted his willingness to arm himself with knives.
The court was read victim impact statements from the victim’s family, who waited outside the courtroom during the sentencing hearing.
Mr Atkinson’s father Michael said he’d lost his best friend as well as his son and his loss was never ending.
Sentencing King to life in jail with a minimum term of 17 years before he is considered for release, Mr Justice Nicklin said: ‘I reject, unequivocally, that this was Mr Atkinson coming at you or that he is in any way to blame. He did not even know you were there until you stabbed him.
‘You were not defending yourself. You did not honestly believe that you needed to use force against Mr Atkinson at all that evening.
‘You were the aggressor, not him.’