Pedestrian guilty of murdering driver who braked to avoid him

·3-min read
Pedestrian guilty of murdering driver who braked to avoid him

A pedestrian who stabbed a driver to death in front of his young son after the motorist performed an emergency stop to avoid running him over and then angrily shouted at him will be jailed for life.

Alexander Layton was convicted of murdering James Stokoe, a 40-year-old married father, in his BMW in Thornaby, Teesside in May 2020, following a trial at Teesside Crown Court.

Mr Stokoe had taken his four-year-old to see his grandparents and the boy was strapped in a car seat during the horrific attack.

Layton, 34, from Shackleton Close, Thornaby, denied murder and possessing an offensive weapon, unsuccessfully claiming self-defence.

Peter Makepeace QC, prosecuting, had told jurors that Layton had got off a bus after a trip to a food bank when he crossed a busy main road, causing Mr Stokoe to brake sharply.

The driver was angry and pulled over to shout at Layton, not knowing he was carrying a kitchen knife in his rucksack.

The defendant walked up to the car and, with his victim still behind the wheel, repeatedly stabbed him, causing him to bleed to death within minutes.

Mr Stokoe, who worked at a local car dealership, was a complete stranger.

CCTV and dashcam footage showed Layton getting off a bus, almost being run over, then stabbing Mr Stokoe four times.

Mr Makepeace said: “Clearly Mr Stokoe must have been shocked, indeed angry, about the near miss that had occurred.

“That might have been compounded by the fact (his son) was in a booster seat in the back of the car.”

The emergency services were called and an air ambulance landed at the scene but Mr Stokoe died in the back of an ambulance.

His wife, a lab technician at Durham University even called him to warn that traffic was bad in the area due to the ongoing incident.

Layton fled the scene, dumped the carving knife, which has not been found, and went camping in Great Ayton, before he was arrested the next night in a pizza shop.

The jury convicted him of murder and possessing an offensive weapon after deliberating for less than three hours.

Judge Howard Crowson will sentence Layton on Tuesday.

He said: “In a case of this sort of seriousness we need time to reflect.

“The sentence for murder is life in prison.”

The victim’s family said: “Nothing will ever bring back our beloved James and we have to live with the consequences of what happened for the rest of our lives.

“He was a much-loved husband, father, son and son-in-law and he is dearly missed by all of us.

“James was treasured by so many people with his wonderful, kind and gentle nature and his loss to us all is unimaginable.”

Outside court, Temporary Detective Superintendent Helen Barker said: “This was a shocking incident which occurred in the presence of James’ young son, which will undoubtedly have had a huge effect on him.

“The death of James has had a traumatic impact on his whole family and my thoughts remain with them at this difficult time.”

She paid tribute to Mr Stokoe’s family and thanked the many witnesses who came forward to help the police inquiry.

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