A Birkenhead man who stabbed his estranged wife's boyfriend to death has been jailed for life.
A judge ordered war games enthusiast Wayne Smith to serve a minimum of 28 years before he can apply for parole after a jury convicted him of murder.
In a chilling plan 38-year-old Smith travelled by train to Jon Britton's home in Paton Close, West Kirby, and stabbed him in the neck and chest with a carving knife after he answered the door.
During his trial a jury at Liverpool Crown Court heard how obsessed Smith hated Mr Britton because he blamed him for breaking up his marriage to Sarah Arbon, and feared he was developing a close relationship with their daughter.
Smith, a father-of-three, of Seymour Street, Birkenhead, had carefully planned the murder and as well as disguising himself with a hooded jacket he set up a false alibi with his friend Steven Hatton.
On the fatal night, December 3 last year, he went to Hatton's home in Tranmere to play a board war game but while there he changed his clothes and went to Mr Britton's home.
When he answered the door Mr Britton, a talented musician who was rehearsing with two friends, was stabbed to death with such force that the knife broke in two.
Smith fled and caught the train back to Birkenhead, but near the murder scene he discarded a hood and snood he had been wearing.
It was later recovered by a policeman walking his dog and found to have a one-in-a-billion match for his DNA.
After he returned to Hatton's home in Elmswood Road, Birkenhead, he confessed to Hatton and got him to hide his jacket in a suitcase.
They then went to a nearby chippy where Smith, wearing the clothes he had left his home in, knew he would be seen on CCTV, helping his alibi.
But CCTV footage from various cameras including the train to and from West Kirby helped prove his incriminating movements that night and at one point he was clearly seen with his snood lowered.
He was arrested the next day as a prime suspect having made threats that he would kill Mr Smith, a 43-year-old landscape gardener, in the months before his death.
He said he had been with 23-year-old Hatton who initially backed up his story but then admitted he was lying.
Sentencing him, after the jury of six women and six men returned their majority verdict of ten to two, the judge Mrs Justice Carr described the murder was “cold blooded and premeditated”.
She said he had set up a sophisticated alibi involving Hatton, whom she jailed for six months.
She told computer expert Smith, “The motive for this dreadful crime was your obsessive hatred for Mr Britton, whom you saw as having stolen your wife, Sarah Arbon, from you.
“You could not bear the fact that your young daughter was building a relationship with Mr Britton.
“Your behaviour in the aftermath of your relationship with Ms Arbon and indeed in the aftermath of your relationship with another former partner, Kirsty Smith, went well beyond normal jealousy.
“You used your considerable computer, technical and strategy skills to spy on these women to the extent of putting a recording dictaphone in Ms Arbon’s bag.
"In denying your involvement in this attack you told the jury a sophisticated arrogant pack of lies. The evidence against you was overwhelming, in terms of motive, identification and your false alibi.”
The judge described Mr Britton as “one of the genuinely nice guys”, saying: “Whatever personal and emotional turmoil you were in as a result of the breakdown of your relationship with Ms Arbon or Mr Britton’s developing relationship with your daughter, nothing that the court has been told about you and your circumstances could possibly justify your actions that day.”
The jury of six women and six men returned their majority verdict of ten to two after 21 hours deliberations after the two week long trial.
Hatton had pleaded guilty to assisting an offender and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
He gave evidence for the prosecution and said that when Smith confessed he was shocked and “went into panic mode”.
The unemployed construction worker described Smith, whom he had known since he was 14 after meeting at a gaming club in Bebington, as his best friend and as a father figure.
He said he was ashamed of not coming forward with his information sooner and had done all he could to set that right.
The judge told Hatton, who shook in the dock as he was jailed for six months, that he would have been jailed for a year but for his guilty plea and the assistance he had given to the prosecution.
She told him: “You chose not to do the right thing on December 4. You were fully aware of the impact of your decision.”
After sentence was passed, Mr Britton's family issued the following statement:
"The murder of our son, Jon Britton, on December 3 2013, has left an extensive trail of victims whose lives have been changed irreversibly.
The law has now taken its course. We have not won. We have lost. We have lost our dear Jon.
Nothing will change that. Nothing will bring him back.
Sitting through the trial has been hard, often distressing, especially hearing graphic descriptions and seeing and hearing recordings of actual events.
It has also been frustrating to hear things said about Jon when he is not here to defend himself, including the insinuations that he used drugs, which were not true.
The support of family and friends during the trial, and indeed over the past six months, has given us strength to bear the unbearable. Words cannot express our gratitude to them.
There are many others we wish to thank – DI Tivendale and his team for their painstaking investigations; our family liaison officer DC Karen Nixon for the help and support she has given us; Mr Riley of the Crown Prosecution Service; Mo, Trish and Amna from the Victim Support Service and Mr Reardon, her Ladyship the Judge and the members of the jury who sat through the trial.
Time has not diminished the pain of our loss. For us and many others, life will never be the same without Jon.
He was a very special person. We will always miss him terribly."