A TEENAGED care leaver has been found guilty of murdering a homeless man who he stabbed to death during a street fight in Exeter.

Brian Jewell used a £10 camping knife which he had bought the previous day to kill 45-year-old Stephen Cook during the violent confrontation outside a betting shop.

A jury at Exeter Crown Court found him guilty after studying digitally enhanced CCTV footage that showed the moments in which he opened and locked the knife in his pocket, pulled it out, and delivered a single sweeping blow into Mr Cook’s body.

The wound penetrated the full length of the shaft of the 8.5 centimetre knife and passed between rib cartilage as it travelled upwards and cut into the heart.

Mr Cook did not realise he had been stabbed and could be seen on the footage to notice a cut in his clothing and then lift his top to reveal blood flowing from his chest.

Murder victim Stephen Cook.
Picture: Police
(August 2023)
Murder victim Stephen Cook. Picture: Police (police)

He staggered into the Betfred shop and collapsed on the floor, retaining consciousness just long enough to make a farewell call to his grown up daughter on a borrowed mobile phone.

The stabbing followed a fight between the two men in which Mr Cook smashed a bottle and used it to attack 19-year-old Jewell. He suffered a severe cut to his face which needed 23 stitches and also lost a tooth.

Jewell was a care leaver who had become homeless after choosing to move out of sheltered accommodation provided by the council and was living rough in a tented encampment in woodland on the banks of the River Exe near St David’s station.

He told the jury he feared for his life and acted in self-defence and pulled the knife to make Mr Cook back off rather than with any intention of harming him. The jury took a day of deliberation before finding him guilty of murder.

Jewell, aged 19, whose last permanent address was Verney Street, Exeter, was found guilty of murder and possession of a knife in a public place.

His sentence was adjourned until next month by Judge Mr Justice Saini, who told him: 'I am not going to sentence you today but you have been found guilty of murder and the law requires me to impose a life sentence.

'I am going to determine, after I have read reports, the minimum term which you must serve before applying for parole. I appreciate that you are a young man and you may be confused by what has been going on.'

During the trial Miss Jo Martin, KC, prosecuting, said Mr Cook died from loss of blood within an hour of being stabbed at 8.10 pm on Saturday, January 28, this year.

She said both him and Jewell were street homeless and Mr Cook had been drinking before the fight and was two times over the drink drive limit and had traces of cannabis, cocaine and the heroin substitute methadone in his system.

Jewell had got an older friend to buy the Opinel No 8 knife from Taunton Leisure the previous day. He had been wandering around Exeter with a friend in the hours before the attack, at one point apparently trying to sell two shoplifted bottles of vodka.

Miss Martin said the slowed down and enhanced footage of the fatal fight showed Jewell putting one hand into the pocket where the knife was and the other on the outside helping to open and lock it.

She said: 'As Mr Cook went to hit him, Jewell can be seen to take his arm back and with the knife in his hand, bring it forward in a sweeping motion towards Mr Cook. There was no warning by Jewell to Mr Cook to back off because he had a knife.

'He simply lashed out with it, going forward to stab Mr Cook.'

Jewell claimed he acted in self-defence. He said he got into a fight with Mr Cook after seeing him hitting a woman but they had been pulled apart before he saw Mr Cook smashing a bottle on the ground and advancing towards him.

He said: 'I heard Cook say he was going to jail for this and he came towards me. I did not think about using the knife at the time. I thought he was about to attack me with the bottle and I was scared.

'He started swinging it towards my face. I was frightened for my life and pulled the knife out of my pocket to defend myself. I was worried he was going to kill me.

'He said he’d ****ing kill me.

'I thought about running away but my eyes were glued to the bottle. I could not take my eyes off it. I didn’t say anything about having a knife because I did not think it would have any effect.

'I just thought that if he attacked me with that bottle I could have died. I think I opened the knife as I took it out of my pocket. I did not lock it. I did not realise it had a locking mechanism.

'He swung at me four or five times. I tried to duck or block it with my left hand. I felt the bottle hit my face once, it might have been more. I thrust the knife towards him hoping he would back off.

'I was not aiming at any particular part of his body. I did not know I hit him with the knife. I did not know I had stabbed him although there was a possibility. I swung the knife once or twice.

'I can’t remember it in any detail. It was a very fast sequence of events. I hoped he would back off. I wasn’t trying to hurt him badly or to kill him.'