‘Monster’ stabbed love rival to death after finding flirty texts to girlfriend

A "monster" who murdered a father-of-two after discovering he had exchanged flirtatious text messages with his girlfriend has been jailed for life.

Stephen Derbyshire, 34, stabbed Michael Hart 16 times in the face, neck and chest in a frenzy after becoming "consumed with jealousy".

The court heard Mr Hart, 31, had previously been in a relationship with Derbyshire's then-girlfriend, Lisa Cardwell, and they had two children together.

The pair had rekindled their relationship but had not yet told their respective partners, a court heard.

At around midnight on December 9 last year, Derbyshire and Miss Cardwell returned to their home after a night out drinking and arguing.

Derbyshire demanded to see her phone, eventually taking it from her and discovering messages she had sent to Mr Hart.

He then got behind the wheel of his car before crashing into Mr Hart, who had been driving to his sister's house to see Miss Cardwell who had fled there amid claims she had been battered by Derbyshire.

Mr Hart tried to flee but was chased on foot by Derbyshire, who tripped him up by kicking the back of his heels.

Derbyshire produced a knife and repeatedly stabbed the defenceless Mr Hart who was heard screaming for help.

Following the murder, Derbyshire used the knife to cut his own throat and wrists in an apparent suicide attempt before handing himself into police the following day.

Derbyshire, of Fleetwood, Lancashire, previously denied murdering Mr Hart but changed his plea at the last minute.

He was jailed for life with a minimum of 20 years at Preston Crown Court on Tuesday.

CCTV footage of the attack was played in court during which a blade could be seen glinting in Derbyshire's hand as he rained blows down on Mr Hart.

In an emotional victim statement, Mr Hart's mother Karen Potts said in court: "My beautiful Michael was my only son. Everyone who met him cherished him.

"He made us all better people. He brought our large family closer. People wanted to be in his company because he was such a good person to be around.

"Michael was a gentle man with a caring heart and he should be an inspiration to others about how to be.

"He was dependable and generous with his time. He looked after his elderly relatives and enjoyed their company.

"It's easy to see how jealousy can cause resentment because Michael really did have it all – but what a waste of a life. His death will never be justified or accepted.

"We are proud of Michael because even at the end he was the better man, and he was looking out for his children.

"(Derbyshire) imposed a life sentence on us the day he murdered my son. He will never be forgiven."

Prosecutor Francis McEntee said a witness has described the victim as 'looking petrified' as he fled from his attacker.

"He looked like he was running as fast as he could. He looked like he was running for his life," the lawyer continued.

"The defendant kicked the back of Mr Hart's heels and that tripped him.

"The original blow seemed to be a punch.

"Mr Hart, on the floor, rolled over to protect himself with his hands in a defensive position, and it was then that the witness saw the defendant had a knife."

Sentencing, Judge Brown told Derbyshire that Mr Hart was a young man who had been robbed of many years or life. 

"You have deprived his family of the love, support and companionship he would have given them," he said.

"It is clear that Mr Hart's family is devastated by what happened to him and they will continue to feel the pain of grief for a long time to come."

Following the sentencing, Mr Hart's family said in a statement released by police: "Derbyshire murdered our beautiful son and grandson, loving brother, uncle and doting partner and caring father, and gave us all a life sentence.

"We will never be the same family, as Michael was the glue that held us together. He was the centre of our world and he will be missed every second of every day for the rest of our lives.

"That monster will never feel what we do because he has no feelings, no remorse, and is made of cowardice and bitterness.

"We hope he rots in prison – it's the only place he deserves to be. No amount of years will be enough as this pain is everything."

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