A man convicted of the manslaughter of a 20-year-old father has been jailed for 11 years.
Macauley Lawless, 22, was found guilty of the manslaughter of Sam Caulfield and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
In a statement Mr Caulfield’s family said: “Sam was a loving son and brother. He was besotted with his young daughter and had his whole life ahead of him.”
Also sentenced were John Mitchell, 21, Jessica Roberts, 25, and Leah Delgado, 24, all from Crawley, who were all charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, police say.
Detective Superintendent Tanya Jones, who led the investigation said: “Sadly, this is yet another case where the lethal combination of drugs and knives has led to the totally unnecessary death of a young man and father.”
Lewes Crown Court heard how 20-year-old Sam of St Leonards Lane, Mayfield, went to a flat in Spencers Road, Crawley, in the early hours of Saturday, June 18, 2016.
CCTV showed him arriving at the entrance to the block of flats and making his way up several flights of stairs to the home of Jessica Roberts.
While he appeared to have a minor hand injury, he seemed otherwise unharmed, but at 2.43am a call was made to emergency services reporting that he had been stabbed.
John Mitchell and Jessica Roberts, who spoke to the ambulance controller, were keen to stress the stabbing had occurred outside the flat, according to police.
Police officers who were first to arrive at the scene said they discovered Sam on the floor of the kitchen with a single stab wound to his abdomen.
While he was still alive at this time, he was unresponsive and stopped breathing a few minutes later, the court heard.
As the officers commenced chest compressions, paramedics arrived and carried out emergency surgical intervention in a bid to save his life.
He was transferred to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, where he sadly died at 6.45am, according to police.
As paramedics fought to save Sam, police spoke to the four people in the flat, including Lawless who was in an agitated and hostile state threatening to kill whoever had attacked his friend.
In the opinion of the pathologist Sam would have collapsed almost immediately after being stabbed which disproved claims Sam had been stabbed before entering the block of flats.
In light of this evidence Lawless changed his story.
He claimed he had picked up the kitchen knife in self-defence, but this was dismissed by the jury who returned a verdict of guilty after retiring for five days.
Lawless was jailed yesterday (Wednesday October 12) for eight years for manslaughter and a further three years for the conspiracy charge – a total of 11 years.
Mitchell, Roberts and Delgado were all found guilty of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, police said.
Mitchell was jailed for three years and the two women both received two year sentences.
Detective Superintendent Jones said: “Lawless, and the others present when Sam was stabbed, initially tried to cover up the crime by claiming that it had happened elsewhere.
He went to great lengths to create a false trail by insisting that he would take revenge on whoever was responsible.
“Even when the co-defendants gave evidence at court Lawless continued to try to shift the blame by claiming he was defending himself against Sam. “Thankfully, the jury saw through the lies and the deceit and Lawless will now have to take full responsibility and punishment for his crime.”
The statement from Mr Caulfield’s family said: “Nothing was too much trouble when it came to Sam’s young daughter.
“He is going to miss her growing up and he won’t see her fall in love, get married or experience the joy of grandchildren.
“We as a family have tried to come to terms with Sam’s death but we miss him so much every day, especially on anniversaries, birthdays and Christmases as they are so painful without him.
“We would like to thank the investigation team for all their hard work and diligence during the investigation at this very difficult time for us. Justice has been served.
“We will never get over the loss of Sam and we hope time will possibly help.
“Now the trial is complete we would like to mourn our beloved Sam in private.”