'Edward's life was needlessly ended' - Killer jailed for 20 years over fatal pub stabbing of Irish father-of-one

'Edward's life was needlessly ended' - Killer jailed for 20 years over fatal pub stabbing of Irish father-of-one

THE killer of Irishman Edward Stokes was jailed today for 20 years for fatally stabbing the father-of-one who had tried to stop a pub brawl. 

Reece Hussain-Lester, 22, of Upland Road, E13, plunged a long kitchen knife into the chest and stomach of Edward Stokes during an incident at the Army and Navy pub in Plaistow, east London last St Patrick's weekend.

The Old Bailey heard several of those drinking at the pub had been there since midday as part of the three day St Patrick’s Day binge between March 17 and 19.

Mr Stokes, from Coalisland in Northern Ireland, had shaken hands with a friend of Hussain as if to sort out the dispute.

Hussain, a painter and decorator, also stabbed Mr Stokes’ friends Bernard McDonagh and Dylan McDonagh during the rampage just after midnight on March 19.

Metropolitan Police Detective Chief Inspector Cliff Lyons, Homicide and Major Crime Command, who led the investigation into Edward's death, said: "He was not involved in an earlier altercation that Hussain-Lester had with some other men but he was caught up in a subsequent, singular callous act of violence, where he was singled out and fatally stabbed twice.

"Edward was both unarmed and defenceless. His attacker went on to hurt others in a bid to escape from the pub, injuring a number of unarmed people in the process.

“Edward's life was needlessly ended. I hope that Hussain-Lester's conviction bring some form of closure to Edward's family."

Prosecutor Timothy Cray told jurors the fight started because of an old feud between Bernard McDonagh and one of Hussain’s friends, Billy Williams.

"Mr McDonagh walked into the saloon bar and threw a punch at Billy Williams and that started off a larger fight which spread outside into the smoking area," he said.

"More punches were thrown, there was a lot of pushing and shoving and one of the men took off his belt and was using it as a whip.

"It was a nasty drunken pub fight – however up to then nobody was seriously hurt and had it ended there it would hardly even have been worth a 999 call."

Hussain then decided to "take the violence to another level" by arming himself with a knife to confront Bernard McDonagh’s group.

After a short stand-off the fight died down and Mr Stokes – who had been in a different part of the bar and not involved in the fighting – went to speak to Hussain.

CCTV footage captured him shaking hands with one of Hussain’s friends George Forde, 22, and then walking away.

But moments later the trouble flared up again and there was a stand-off between Hussain and Mr Stokes - who was a member of the Travelling community.

Hussain stabbed Mr Stokes, 29, in the stomach, severing a major artery, and again in the chest before being thrown out of the pub by the landlady.

He then stabbed Bernard McDonagh four times in the back and torso and slashed Dylan McDonagh before running off.

Edward Stokes was left critically injured and died in hospital the next morning as a result of his injuries.

A post-mortem examination held on Monday, 21 March at Poplar Mortuary gave his cause of death as multiple stab wounds.

He claimed he acted in self-defence and was cleared of murdering Mr Stokes but convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Hussain was also convicted of wounding with intent on Bernard McDonaugh and unlawful wounding of Dylan McDonagh.

He claimed he had grabbed the large kitchen knife from a bystander, but the judge rejected his version of events.

There were loud cheers from the public gallery and screams of "murdering b*stard" as Judge Paul Worsley QC jailed him for 20 years.

Judge Worsley said: ‘"It’s clear to me that you had with you a long kitchen knife – I reject your evidence that another person produced the knife and you managed to grab it from them."

"In the CCTV evidence no one else is seen to be holding a knife, no one used the knife but you – no one from the McDonagh clan tried to retrieve a knife which I think they would have done if it had been theirs.

"If Edward Stokes knew you had a knife I conclude he would not have approached you with fists alone.

"You were prepared to use the knife if the need arose. You have no previous convictions but the court now has to pass sentence on someone who stabbed three people on the night.

"The courts have said over and over again that those who go around with knifes and use them to inflict serious injuries let alone death deserve very heavy prison sentences.’

The savage pub fight had lasted less than four minutes, from the first punch to the stabbing of Mr Stokes.

Bernard McDonagh spent two days in hospital while Dylan McDonagh suffered minor cuts to his arms.

Another relative, Steven McDonagh also suffered cuts.

Hussain, who had denied all charges, accepted he had a knife and caused the injuries but claimed that he had been defending himself from attack by the McDonagh group.

He was acquitted of the murdering Mr Stokes but convicted of manslaughter.

Hussain was convicted of wounding Bernard McDonagh with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

He was acquitted of both wounding with intent and unlawful wounding relating to Steven McDonagh.

Hussain was acquitted of wounding Dylan McDonagh with intent but convicted of the alternative of unlawful wounding.

He was jailed for a total of 20 years for his crimes.