TWO half-brothers laughed in the dock as they were sentenced to a minimum total of 45 years in prison for the murder of a father-of-eight.
Blackburn man Steven Thurston had his head ‘caved in’ at his home by George Preshur and Andrew Tait in June, after they claimed he had sold their mother ‘bad drugs’.
The pair joked and smirked with one another during the two-day sentencing held at Preston Crown Court as High Court Judge Mr Justice Clive Freedman QC jailed them both for life.
Mr Thurston’s family said their hearts had been left ‘heavy with sadness’ since his death, saying after the court case that they were satisfied with the long sentences the brothers had received.
Mr Justice Freedman said: “On June 8, it was alleged that Steven Thurston provided spice to the mother of George Preshur and Andrew Tait.
“She is said to have been unwell after taking the drugs, however, at the time this murder took place she was feeling much better.
“Andrew Tait was angry, in a message discovered on his phone he had contacted his uncle to say: ‘that d****** tinfoil (Mr Thurston) spiked mum, your sister, with god knows what. Gonna cave his head in.’”
Just a number of hours later Mr Thurston was found dead by a friend in a pool of blood in his own home.
A police investigation identified the half-brothers as suspects after two wooden poles containing Mr Thurston’s DNA were discovered in the attic of their mother’s home.
They were also seen on CCTV storming up the street from their mother’s home towards Mr Thurston’s home on Sussex Drive, both armed with the wooden poles.
They exited less than a minute later with Mr Thurston dead.
The pair were arrested two days later with 30-year-old Preshur of Keele Walk, Blackburn, pleading guilty to murder in November. With credit for his guilty plea, he was sentenced to a minimum of 20 years and 10 month in prison.
However 22-year-old Tait, also of Keele Walk, Blackburn, maintained his innocence, prompting a trial. He was found guilty of murder by a jury in less than two-and-a-half hours.
He will serve at least 25 years in prison before being eligible for parole.
A victim impact statement read out by Mr Thurston’s sister Sharon Simpson on behalf of the whole family described the murdered 50-year-old as a ‘man with a big heart’.
She said: “Our hearts are heavy with sadness and disbelief. He did not deserve to be taken, we cannot comprehend how these individuals could walk into his house and take him away from us in such a vicious way.
“We know he had issues, but he was ours. He cared about people. Steven had a big heart, so big he felt like he could welcome people into it.
“He was the only boy of four siblings and although he wasn’t the eldest, he took his brotherly duties seriously.
“We will not be the same without him. We were four and now we are three.”
Mr Justice Freedman commended the family on their composure during the trial, saying they had handled all of the proceedings with ‘considerable dignity.’
Addressing the defendants, he added: “When you both entered that house a furious, ferocious and frenzied attack on a defenceless man ensued.
“It all happened in 30 seconds.
“Steven Thurston was on the sofa and he was struck on the head numerous times.
“He tried to defend himself with his arms, only adding to the extent of his injuries.
“It is impossible to imagine what a terrifying experience this would have been for him. You are both utterly callous.”
Mr Thurston’s distraught family also spoke out after the hearing, saying the defendants had shown a ‘complete and utter lack of respect to their family, the court and the judge.’
Sister Jackie Dearden said: “The way they have behaved while in the dock has been appalling.
“Laughing and making a fuss – they showed no respect.
“As a family we are glad this is now over and that we can move on with our lives. We are happy with the sentences they received and that our 77-year-old mother will never have to see them again.”