A MAN has today been sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to murdering a former soldier from Birkenhead and the attempted murder of his 14-year-old son.

Gary Carl Finlay entered the pleas during a hearing at Liverpool Crown Court this afternoon.

Mr McKenna died on January 10 after he and his son were attacked on their way to catch a bus to watch an Everton football match.

Finlay, 46, of Alexandra Road, Birkenhead, was sentenced to life with a minimum of 25 years for Mr McKenna's murder, and 10 years minimum for the attempted murder of his son, Michael.

The court heard how Finlay attacked the father and son as they waited for the soccer bus on Upton Road in Claughton.

Finlay was straddling Mr McKenna and stabbed him 18 times. When the former soldier managed to struggle free and run towards a home in nearby Speedwell Road, Finlay chased him and resumed the attack.

After delivering the fatal wounds to McKenna, Finlay then attacked 14-year-old Michael - only to be stopped by two brave passers-by.

He was then seen wiping the blood from the long kitchen knife onto his trousers before speeding off in a car.

Finlay - whose estranged wife was the sister of Mr McKenna's wife - hated the the former army corporal because he had offered to give evidence in Finlay's acrimonious divorce proceedings.

Mr McKenna's wife Gillian said: "Graham was a wonderful husband, father, son, brother and friend.

"Graham served 22-years-in the armed forces in various places and different combat conditions.

"He loved the army and continued to play an active role in the forces through the Territorial Army.

"Since his death our lives have been turned upside down. His death has totally devastated all of his family and friends.

"Graham and Michael received similar injuries during the deliberate and brutal attack by Finlay.

"Graham died from his injuries and Michael almost did. I will never ever forgive him for what he has done.

"Finlay killed a defenceless man and attacked an innocent 14-year-old boy in the street. Only a coward would and could do that.

"He will never know what love is as a man who is capable of killing a loving father and destroying a young boy's life cannot know the meaning of the word.

"He also destroyed my sister's life through physical and mental abuse whilst they were married.

"I have lost my soulmate, the love of my life, the father of my children, and nothing will ever bring him back. It is better to have loved him than to never loved at all.

"My daughter Amy, reminds me that her dad will live on through her and brother Michael and future generations and so will never be forgotten.

"I would like to thank the two men who came to Graham and Michael's aid after the attack.

"I don't know who they are but I would like to meet them as I am incredibly grateful for what they did.

"I would also like to thank the residents of Speedwell Road in Claughton, the paramedics who attended, the hospital staff who cared for Graham and who saved my son, and the police.

"Our friends, family, work mates, Michael's school and the local community have all been incredibly supportive too.

"Our memories of Graham continue to give us the strength to deal with his loss and to help come to terms with what has happened."

She added: "The sentencing of Gary Finlay today sees justice done in the eyes of the law, but it will never bring Graham back to us, his murder is something that we will never fully recover from and there will never be a sentence long enough for that brutal, cowardly man."

Detective Inspector Andy O'Connor of Merseyside Police said after the hearing: "These were particularly vicious attacks against a father and his son resulting in the death of a man who had his whole life ahead of him.

"This has been a very difficult time for Michael and his family.

"I would like to thank the members of the public who assisted us with this inquiry having witnessed such a horrendous attack.

"The intervention by members of the public during this attack undoubtedly saved Michael's life.

"I would like to reassure members of the community that incidents of this nature are rare and robustly investigated.

"My thoughts go out to the family and hope that the sentencing today will help them in part come to terms with their tragic loss.”"