Criminal who stabbed talented bagpiper to death jailed for life

A VIOLENT criminal has been jailed for life for stabbing a stranger to death in a Yorkshire village street, just three months after being released from custody.

Saturday, 1st June 2013, 1:01 am
Victim: Craig Hepburn

Luke Elliott, 22, was ordered to serve a minimum of 22 years for murdering Craig Hepburn in Marsden, near Huddersfield, after a judge described the attack as “random and spontaneous”.

His co-accused, Anthony Driver – who has 54 convictions for 128 offences including violent knife crime – was found guilty of the 19-year-old’s manslaughter and jailed for 13 years.

In a statement read to Leeds Crown Court heard yesterday, Mr Hepburn’s devastated family said they were robbed of seeing their son “grow into the young man he could have been”.

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Both attackers were on licence for offences when they killed Mr Hepburn. Elliott, of Main Avenue, Cowlersley, had been recently released from a young offenders institution where he was being held for actual bodily harm, while Driver, 38, had been jailed for wounding with intent but freed seven to eight months earlier.

After Mr Hepburn was stabbed 11 times with a 9cm lock-knife and left for dead in a pool of blood, Elliott boasted to friends he believed he had killed a man, while Driver, of Grange Cottages, Marsden, was pictured “partying”.

Mr Hepburn, a talented bagpiper, suffered severe internal injuries and died soon after he was stabbed, jurors heard during a five-week trial.

He had arrived in the village just hours earlier to visit his uncle with a friend, Connor Paton, 19, who was also stabbed but survived 
after emergency surgery, probably because he was wearing a thick padded jacket, judge Mrs Justice Lang said.

Elliott, who has nine previous convictions, was also found guilty of Mr Paton’s attempted murder.

The young friends had travelled from their home in Linwood, near Paisley, Renfrewshire, and were approached by Elliott and Driver as they walked back from a night out on Friday July 6 last year.

The court had heard they had enjoyed a “happy evening” in Marsden’s pubs and bars, during which Mr Hepburn had played the bagpipes to locals.

Sentencing them, Mrs Justice Lang said: “As they walked through the quiet streets, you Driver, and you Elliott, came up behind them and soon picked a fight about nothing.”

The court heard both victims, who had been drinking and were clearly not local, were “deliberately targeted”.

As Mr Paton continued walking, Mr Hepburn was punched and stabbed. His friend returned to help and was himself knifed three times.

“It was a frenzied attack on a defenceless man,” Mrs Justice Lang added, saying while she was satisfied it was Elliott who used the knife and that the assault was a “joint enterprise”, Driver did not know he was carrying it.

“You destroyed Craig’s life for no reason when he was in his prime and had his whole life ahead of him. You’ve caused indescribable pain to Craig’s family.”

Driver, who has a history of drug use, and Elliott, denied all charges. The jury cleared him of Mr Hepburn’s murder and the attempted murder and wounding with intent of Mr Paton.

A statement on behalf of the victims’s families said: “We as well as our extended families would like to express our relief that the trial has now come to an end and that the people responsible for taking Craig’s life and trying to take the life of Connor have been found guilty.”

Det Insp Tim Hunt of West Yorkshire Police said: “We welcome the conviction and sentencing of Elliott and Driver today for what was an unprovoked and senseless attack on two young men which has tragically robbed one of his life.”