Pub's landlord stabbed man to death - claim

A pub landlord stabbed a customer to death with a knife during an argument over late-night drinking, a court has heard. Landlord Steven French is alleged to have stabbed Christopher Garford 23 times with a kitchen knife in the head, neck and chest during the fight at the Wisbech Arms pub in Wisbech in June.

A pub landlord stabbed a customer to death with a knife during an argument over late-night drinking, a court heard yesterday.

Landlord Steven French is alleged to have stabbed Christopher Garford 23 times with a kitchen knife in the head, neck and chest during the fight at the Wisbech Arms pub in Wisbech in June.

Builder Garford, 49 - described in court yesterday as no "angel" himself - is said to have sparked the fight by throwing his pint glass at French during the row at 11.20pm on June 3 last year.

The glass missed French and shattered, sending shards of glass over the landlord's girlfriend and 10-year-old daughter, Cambridge Crown Court heard.

The two men then fought until French pulled the knife from his trousers and rained down slashes with the blade.

He waited for almost 20 minutes after the last blow to call emergency services, said Timothy Spencer, prosecuting.

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French, who denies murder, told police the murder had been committed by "two foreigners" who stormed into the pub.

Mr Spencer said both men had been seen drinking throughout the day.

French, who had been landlord of the working men's club for five months, was putting his four-year-old daughter to bed shortly after 11pm that night while Garford finished his drink downstairs.

Garford's smashed pint glass caused superficial cuts to French's girlfriend and his 10-year-old daughter.

Seeing their injuries, he said: "Look what you've done. My baby was behind the bar."

Because of the noise caused by the argument, French's four-year-old daughter left her bed and came downstairs to the bar, said Mr Spencer.

When the landlord came downstairs, counsel added, he was angry that drinkers were still in the bar.

He said: "That someone dies as a result of an attack in a public house is regrettably not that unusual. What is unusual is that the attacker, this defendant, was the landlord of the Wisbech Arms. We have something of a slanging match, Mr Garford picked up his pint glass and hurled it towards Steven French.

"His conduct in throwing the glass was clearly wrong, however it does not even begin to justify the vicious and sustained attack on him that was about to unfold.

"Having been stabbed, Mr Garford was left to die on the floor of the bar, left to die without anyone attempting to comfort him, without anyone endeavouring to see whether he could be helped."

Mr Spencer told the jury that French had "lost control" in the fist fight and had used his hidden knife in "what must have been a fierce and frenzied attack".

He added: "The reality, we say, is this is a case of murder and nothing else."

But Karim Khalil, defending, told the jury French had been subjected to verbal and physical attacks from pub regulars since he had taken over as landlord five months earlier. Those regulars, including Mr Garford, he said, were members of the travelling community. It was in fact the dead man who first pulled a knife during the struggle in the bar, he said.

"In quite a short period of time he became a threatened landlord," said counsel, "threatened by language and physical assault. Over the course of time, and finally on that night, Mr French had been subjected to very significant provocation by the deceased and his cohorts."

The trial continues.