Landlord denies murdering customer
A PUB landlord from Wisbech stabbed a customer to death in a fierce and frenzied attack during an argument over late-night drinking, a court heard yesterday. Landlord Steven French, 50, is alleged to have stabbed Christopher Garford, a total of 23 times w
A PUB landlord from Wisbech stabbed a customer to death in a fierce and frenzied attack during an argument over late-night drinking, a court heard yesterday.
Landlord Steven French, 50, is alleged to have stabbed Christopher Garford, a total of 23 times with a kitchen knife in the head, neck and chest during the fight at the Wisbech Arms pub, in Exchange Square, Wisbech.
A jury at Cambridge Crown Court was told that Mr Garford, 49, of Wisbech sparked the fight by throwing his pint glass at French during the argument at around 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.
The two men then fought until French pulled the knife from his trousers and stabbed him with the blade.
French waited for almost 20 minutes after the last blow to call emergency services, said Timothy Spencer QC, prosecuting.
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The court heard, 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 the previous five months, was putting his four-year-old daughter to bed shortly after 11pm that night while Garford was finishing 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 main bar, added Mr Spencer.
When the landlord came downstairs, counsel added, he was angry that drinkers were still in the bar.
He said: "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".
But Karim Khalil QC, defending, told the jury that French had been subjected to verbal and physical attacks from regulars at the pub since he had taken over as landlord five months earlier.
Mr Khalil added that it was in fact the dead man who first pulled a knife during the struggle in the bar.
"In quite a short period of time he became a threatened landlord," he said
"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.
"He was doing more than defend himself but his immediate family; his partner and children."
The trial continues.