A killer who murdered a dad-of-two in a pub attack has been jailed for life
Michael Wilson punched and kicked Ronnie Howard, 31, who was on night out at the Prince Edward pub in South Shields on May 4.
Married father-of-three Wilson, 35, of Hylton Avenue, South Shields, denied murder but was convicted by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court.
Mrs Justice Laing said he must serve at least 16 years.
He had previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Prosecutors said Wilson intended to cause really serious harm and had planned to “knock out” Mr Howard.
Mr Howard died due to a traumatic subarachnoid heammorrhage, which is bleeding on the brain.
Tragic dad Ronnie Howard was a planned target for the violent pub attack that cut his life short, a judge has ruled.
Michael Wilson wanted to get Mr Howard, 31, “out of the way” so that his cocaine and alcohol fuelled friends could attack Mr Howard’s best friend and cousin Anthony Jefferson.
Wilson, 35, who is a married father of three, who had been drinking that day, threw two full-force punches followed by a hard kick that sent Mr Howard crashing to the ground.
The devoted dad died as a result of a traumatic subarrachnoid haemmorhage very soon after he sustained the unexpected blows at the Prince Edward pub in South Shields on May 4.
In a victim impact statement, Mr Howard’s grieving sister Sonia Howard said: “Nothing can prepare you for the phone call in the middle of the night, telling you a loved one has died.
“Nothing can prepare you for the nightmare we endure every day since that call.
“We miss everything about him, his smile, his laugh, his voice.
“The cruel way he was taken left us with broken hearts that will never heal.”
Miss Howard said her brother was a devoted father to his two sons and she described the “light drain from their eyes” when they were told that their dad was now a “star in the sky”.
Paul Haley, David Wood, and Anthony Kenrick had decided violence would break out that night and that the result was the loss of Mr Howard’s life.
The judge said: “The four of you had put your heads together and had agreed to attack Mr Howard and Mr Jefferson.
“You, Wilson, would take out Mr Howard, who was a big man and would otherwise have protected his cousin and friend, while, at the same time, your friends would attack Mr Jefferson.”
The judge said Mr Howard posed “no threat at all” that night and had done nothing to provoke any violence.
She added that Wilson used the “element of surprise” when the threw two unexpected punches at the unsuspecting dad, who was standing with his hands by his side, to make sure he went down.
Wilson, who admitted manslaughter and affray, was convicted of murder after a trial at Newcastle Crown Court.
The married father-of-three, of Hylton Avenue, South Shields, has now been sentenced to life behind bars.
Mrs Justice Laing said he must serve a minumum of 16 years behind bars before he can apply for parole.
The judge said he accepted Wilson was ordinarily a family man who is well spoken of.
She added; “Mr Howard would be a tidy ally in a fight, he was a tall, heavy man, you decided, effectively, you wanted him out of the way to further your friends’ plan to attack Mr Jefferson.”
Jurors had heard Mr Howard, who was described as an “excellent father”, suffered a traumatic subarachnoid haemorrhage in the attack and could have died within “minutes, if not seconds”.
He was pronounced in dead in hospital that night, despite efforts by specialist medics to save him.
Footage from cctv inside the bar at the time of the attack has been played in court and showed Mr Howard, who had been out with his girlfriend that day, crashing to the floor of the pub after the “full force” blows.
The cctv shows a “ferocious” brawl then broke out in the bar, while Mr Howard remained on the floor, not moving.
David Wood, 28, of Sunderland Road, Anthony Kenrick, 33, of Centenary Avenue and Paul Haley, 26, of Ascot Gardens, all South Shields, all admitted assault on Mr Jefferson.
The judge said it was only “good fortune” that Mr Jefferson, who was punched and kicked, did not suffer serious injury.
Wood and Kenrick were sentenced to 20 months behind bars.
Haley was sentenced to 18 months.
Defence barristers said the men regret what happened that night.
Nicholas Lumley QC, defending Wilson, said; “I acknowledge, for all Mr WIlson’s life is ruined, at least he still has a life.”