Man found guilty of murdering licensee Christian Thornton

Lee Abbott, age 35, from Rose Street, Widnes, has been found guilty of murdering licensee Christian Thornton near his pub the Hammer & Pincers, Widnes. He was jailed for life with a minimum of 28 years after the case was heard at Liverpool Crown Court.

Abbott, who had been banned by Widnes Pubwatch, from all pubs in the area on 6 August 2019, had earlier threatened to burn down the pub.

On 11 August 2019, he armed himself with a large knife and went to the pub to confront the licensee. Abbott stabbed Christian Thornton eleven times before fleeing the scene.

Commenting on the case, Steve Baker, Chair of National Pubwatch, said:

“So, it has come to this. A man known to the police, who had consumed alcohol an estimated three and a half times over the drink-drive limit and had cocaine and testosterone in his system, kills a licensee who has the temerity to stand up to him.

“That a hard-working and conscientious family man should forfeit his life, in any circumstances, is a terrible thing and hard to comprehend. Unfortunately, it was only a matter of time before the knife crime insanity affecting our towns and cities should so cruelly impact on the pub trade.

“There can be no doubt that the Widnes Pubwatch Scheme, had every right to conclude that this man was a danger to pub staff and customers and should to be excluded from their venues. It’s the type of pragmatic decision taken by Pubwatch members across the UK on a regular basis.

“As Tim Martin the boss of JD Wetherspoon so rightly highlighted when speaking at our annual National Pubwatch conference in February, licensees can be vulnerable. Martin also said that he had ‘never felt so intimidated than standing in a pub behind the bar’.

“It’s a great shame that Pubwatch members should have to use Common Law bans to protect their businesses; but unfortunately, we can’t rely solely on the Criminal Justice system. But as this case so tragically illustrates, there are people in every community who pose a real and present danger to the pub trade.

“We hope that members of Widnes Pubwatch, feel confident, to stand firm and continue with their efforts. It’s only by working together that we can present a strong and effective front to the thugs who have no respect for the silent majority only wishing to work and socialise in safety.”

National Pubwatch provides advice and good practice guidance to Pubwatch members. A number of short training films can be found on the NPW YouTube link. Subjects include ‘Conflict Management’, ‘How to deal with a knife attack’, ‘Crime scene preservation’ and ‘Door security and search procedures’.