“NICOLAS Warrender has destroyed this family” – these are the words of the devastated loved ones of grandfather Kevin Gaunt, 52, who died from a single stab wound on Father’s Day during a doorstep confrontation.
Warrender today starts an 11-year jail sentence for manslaughter.
The 23-year-old, of Avenue Vivian, Fence Houses, was cleared of murder by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court.
He thrust a steak knife into “unarmed and unsuspecting” Mr Gaunt’s heart during the row in June, later claiming it had been a complete accident while protecting himself.
Speaking on behalf of Mr Gaunt’s family after the case, cousin Jason Gaunt, 38, said: “Kevin was a big strong man who loved his family.
“The idea that someone can go to answer their front door and just not come back is just impossible to grasp.
“He was there one minute and just gone the next.
“We will never get over this.”
Mr Gaunt, a father and grandfather, staggered into his kitchen and collapsed in a pool of blood on the floor after the stabbing in June.
His distraught wife Carole begged “don’t leave me, please don’t leave me”.
As her husband lay dying, Mrs Gaunt was frantically trying to keep her four-year-old granddaughter, who she had been babysitting, away from the horror happening inside the house while calling for help.
Mr Gaunt, 52, died as a result of the single stab wound.
Warrender, 23, of Avenue Vivian, Fence Houses, denied murder and was tried by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court.
He claimed a knife he had been using to cut an apple had accidentally caused the fatal wound as he fended off an attack by Mr Gaunt.
After more than five hours’ deliberation, jurors rejected Warrender’s claim that what happened had been a complete accident while protecting himself and found him guilty of manslaughter.
He was found not guilty of the charge of murder.
Judge James Goss told him: “You armed yourself with a sharp steak knife with a blade of over four inches and in the ensuing confrontation you stabbed Kevin Gaunt through the heart.
“The sentence I pass for the offence of which you were convicted by the jury cannot and does not attempt to put a value on the life that has been lost.
“I am quite satisfied you took the knife with you at least prepared to use it as a weapon if the need arose. You then used the knife in the confrontation to fatal effect.
“You were significantly under the influence of alcohol, two-and-a-half to three times the limit for driving a vehicle.
“The offence was committed virtually on the victim’s doorstep to his home, in the presence of his wife and his wife’s granddaughter, a child who was clearly deeply upset by what took place.
“You have never acknowledged your crime and there can be no credit for guilty plea or remorse.”
Prosecutor Robert Woodcock told the court Warrender’s girlfriend Hannah Gaunt, 20, was the step-daughter of the victim.
On the night of the killing, the couple had been out drinking while Mr Gaunt and his wife looked after Hannah’s little girl at their home next door.
After the night out, a row erupted and Hannah was ordered out of her mother and step-father’s home.
She went back to her own house and Mr and Mrs Gaunt locked their door for the night but moments later Warrender turned up to confront his girlfriend’s step-father.
Mr Woodcock said: “There clearly was some kind of scuffle between them. The result of it was that Kevin Gaunt was fatally wounded with one stab wound to the chest.
“The wound, say the prosecution, was caused by the defendant Nicolas Warrender, in his misguided belief that Hannah had been assaulted by Kevin Gaunt.
“Before he went around to have it out with Kevin Gaunt, he had armed himself with a knife, a steak knife from a block in Hannah’s kitchen, a weapon, say the prosecution, which he had concealed, of which, say the prosecution, Kevin Gaunt almost certainly never had sight of at all.”
Mrs Gaunt sobbed as she told jurors during the trial she had not witnessed the actual stabbing but was heading towards her front door when she heard there was trouble.
She told jurors her husband had said “he’s stabbed me” as he came back into the house.
Toby Hedworth, defending, said while Warrender does have previous convictions for violence he has been out of trouble for over four years and has no history of carrying weapons.