Killer finally admits being first to stab Sunderland dad Kevin Johnson

John Johnson with a picture of his son Kevin
John Johnson with a picture of his son Kevin

A convicted killer who was jailed for his part in the group murder of an innocent dad ten years ago has finally admitted he was the one to deliver the first knife blow.

Tony Stuart Hawkes, now 26, was one of a gang-of-three teenagers convicted of the savage murder of 22-year-old Kevin Johnson in May 2007.

Tony Hawkes

Tony Hawkes

Mr Johnson was stabbed after confronting Hawkes and two others about their rowdy drunken behaviour on the Pennywell estate.

At the time, the identity of the person who dealt the killer blow was not discovered.

But today, after a case review at the High Court, it was revealed that Hawkes has confessed that it was his knife that inflicted the first injury.

His admission came to light during a review, in which Mr Justice William Davis refused to cut Hawkes' 16-year minimum term.

"In 2012, he admitted being the first man to stab Mr Johnson with a knife that he had been carrying with him," said the judge.

"Of itself, this demonstrates a mature recognition of what he did when he was 17."

The court heard Hawkes and his accomplices, Jordan Towers and Dean Curtis, had been noisy, drunk and belligerent on the night of the killing.

Their behaviour disturbed Mr Johnson, who was then savagely attacked when he left his home to remonstrate.

He was dead before he reached hospital.

In the meantime, the trio had walked on and attacked Jamie Thompson after asking him for a cigarette.

Hawkes plunged his knife into Mr Thompson's chest, but did not cause serious injury.

He was convicted of murder and wounding with intent to cause GBH at Newcastle Crown Court in October 2007.

In the early years of his sentence, Hawkes was a "problematic prisoner", regularly in trouble behind bars and had to be punished, said the judge.

However, he had since matured and does not represent a major risk to the public now, his solicitors claimed.

Refusing a cut in the minimum term, Mr Justice Davis said Hawkes' admission of having struck the first blow showed he had matured.

But it was not enough to justify a cut to allow him to apply to the Parole Board for release on licence any sooner.

"He has made good progress, but nothing which warrants the description exceptional and unforeseen," he said.

"He is still relatively young. His tariff period has a long period yet to run.

"If he demonstrates an increased maturity over the course of the next year or two, it may be that a further review will lead to a different result."

Hawkes can only be freed after serving his 16-year minimum if the Parole Board is convinced he is not a danger.