Crawley man jailed for manslaughter of friend

A man who stabbed his friend to death in Crawley has been jailed for 11 years after being found guilty of manslaughter and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

The trial of Macauley Lawless, 22, (top left in photo) of Ifield Road, Crawley, accused of the murder of Samuel Caufield and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, opened at Lewes Crown Court on September 18th. In the dock with him were John Mitchell, 21, (top right) Jessica Roberts, 25 (bottom right) and Leah Delgado, 24, (bottom left) all from Crawley and all charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

The 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. The two people, Mitchell and Roberts, who spoke to the ambulance controller, were keen to stress that the stabbing had occurred outside the flat.

Police officers who were first to arrive at the scene 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. 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.

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.

A post mortem showed that Sam died as a result of a single stab wound to the abdominal aorta and in the opinion of the Home Office pathologist who carried it out, he would have collapsed almost immediately after being stabbed.

When co-defendants gave evidence at court that disproved claims that Sam had been stabbed before entering the block of flats, Lawless changed his story, claiming that he had picked up the kitchen knife, used to strike the fatal blow, in self-defence, but this was dismissed by the jury who returned a verdict of guilty after retiring for five days.

Lawless was jailed 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 with Mitchell jailed for three years and the two women both receiving two year sentences.

Detective Superintendent Tanya Jones, who led the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team 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.

“Lawless, and the others present when Sam was stabbed, initially tried to cover up the crime by claiming that it had happened elsewhere. Lawless himself 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 that 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.

Following the verdict, Sam Caufield’s family issued the following statement:

“Sam was a loving son and brother. He was besotted with his young daughter and nothing was too much trouble when it came to her.

“Sam was 20-years-old when he was killed and he had his whole life ahead of him. He is going to miss his young daughter 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.

“The defendants have all been tried in a court of law and justice has been served. 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.

“We will never get over the loss of Sam and we hope that time will possibly help.

“Now the trial is complete we would like to mourn our beloved Sam in private.”

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