Yorkshire: Pedestrian who murdered driver in front of son jailed for minimum of 23 years

Alexander Layton sentenced to life in prison for the murder of James Stokoe, a 40-year-old married father, in his BMW in Thornaby, Teesside, in May 2020

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A pedestrian who stabbed a driver to death in front of his young son after the motorist performed an emergency stop to avoid running him over has been jailed for a minimum of 23 years.

Alexander Layton was convicted of murdering James Stokoe, a 40-year-old married father, in his BMW in Thornaby, Teesside, in May 2020, following a trial at Teesside Crown Court.

Mr Stokoe’s four-year-old son was strapped in a car seat during the attack and has been “substantially affected” and left needing therapy because of the trauma of his father’s murder, the court heard.

Layton, 34, from Shackleton Close, Thornaby, caused Mr Stokoe to brake sharply as he crossed the busy main road after getting off a bus.

Mr Stokoe pulled over to shout at Layton, who walked up to the car and repeatedly stabbed his victim with a 12in kitchen knife he was carrying in his rucksack.

Judge Howard Crowson described Layton’s reaction as “disproportionate and unjustified” as he sentenced him to life in prison on Tuesday.

He told the defendant: “Alexander Layton, you have been convicted of the murder of James Stokoe, using a 12in kitchen knife carried by you as an offensive weapon.”

The judge continued: “James Stokoe was a happy, successful, proud husband, father and son. He did nothing to justify your attack upon him.”

Judge Crowson said the fatal wound was inflicted with such force that it passed through Mr Stokoe’s thigh and evidence showed that the victim, who was still behind the wheel of his car, was trying to turn away and “desperately trying to fend off” the attack.

The judge said Mr Stokoe was in a “vulnerable and defenceless position” during the attack, which happened during the day in a public street and was witnessed by many people.

He said: “In the car seat in the rear of the car was Mr and Mrs Stokoe’s four-year-old son, who has been substantially affected by all he saw and lives in fear of a similar attack.”

CCTV and dashcam footage showed Layton getting off a bus, almost being run over, then stabbing Mr Stokoe, who worked at a local car dealership and was a complete stranger.

The emergency services were called but he bled to death within minutes and died in the back of an ambulance.

Layton fled the scene, dumped the knife, which has not been found, and went camping in Great Ayton, before he was arrested the next night in a pizza shop.