A MAN found guilty of murdering a Barrow dad-of-three is likely to spend a minimum of 25 years behind bars.

Mark Bartholomew was convicted by a jury who returned a unanimous guilty verdict yesterday at Preston Crown Court following a two-week trial.

His co-accused, Lee Black, was found guilty of assisting an offender.

During the trial, prosecutor Nigel Power QC told how Bartholomew savagely stabbed Andy Hackett through the heart with such force that he broke his ribs.

He then dragged Mr Hackett into the back alley and left him to die in the early hours of a cold December morning while Black cleaned up the murder scene.

Dad-of-one Bartholomew, 40, then fled the scene on his skateboard, making his way to Salthouse Mills where he threw the 34cm wooden-handled kitchen knife he had used to kill Mr Hackett into the icy water of Cavendish Dock.

Despite his attempts to hide the evidence the murder weapon was later recovered from the dock.

Giving evidence, Bartholomew claimed he didn’t know how Mr Hackett had ended up dead, and suggested someone else had been responsible.

But thanks to the work by forensic experts Bartholomew’s DNA was found both on the knife and on the outer surface of the ankles of Mr Hackett’s jeans, which the jury agreed proved he had stabbed him and then dragged him to the backstreet.

Other crucial evidence included proof that blood had been wiped from the floor and skirting boards by Black. He used toilet paper to clean up the murder scene before finally making the 999 call for an ambulance.

It was too late for Mr Hackett, however, and he was declared dead at Furness General Hospital later that morning.

The jury took just three hours to find both Bartholomew and Black guilty.

Bartholomew will be sentenced on Monday at Preston. Sentencing guidance means he is likely to be given a life sentence with a minimum term of 25 years.

Black, who has been detained at Guild Lodge secure unit because of his mental health issues, will be sentenced on October 1.

'Tragic case where a man lost his life in a senseless attack'

Following the guilty verdicts Superintendent Sarah Jackson from Cumbria Police said: “Mark Bartholomew has tried to represent himself as a benevolent individual, who helped Black and Hackett get by in everyday life.

“He was in fact nothing more than a criminal drug dealer, who ensured those around him were hooked on the very drugs he sold, and he shamelessly wielded that power to control and intimidate.

“This is a tragic case where Andrew Hackett lost his life in a senseless attack, following a minor disagreement about drugs. He was killed after Bartholomew used considerable force to inflicted a single stab wound to his chest.

“Andrew was alone in Bartholomew’s bedroom when he was attacked, and would have had no way to protect himself.

“Instead of seeking help for the fatally wounded victim, Bartholomew spent time calmly smoking drugs and planning his escape. He began to cover his tracks by instructing Black to clean up the address.

“Bartholomew dragged Andrew out of the address and into the rear alley, where he was cruelly left to lie in the dark on that cold December morning.

“Bartholomew then fled the address and in an attempt to frustrate the investigation, disposed of the murder weapon in the dock at Salthouse Mills. Black remained at the scene, called for medical assistance and stayed to deal with the emergency services. Unfortunately that help couldn’t save Andrew, and he sadly died.

“Both Bartholomew and Black have continually refused to provide a truthful version of what actually happened that night, and in doing so have delayed justice for Andrew, and his family, until now.

“Andrew’s family have acted with the utmost dignity since the attack and I hope this conviction goes some way to help them through their awful loss.

“I would like to recognise the team of officers in Cumbria Constabulary who worked hard to pull the case together, and also to the wider team who recovered the weapon and other supporting evidence that later forensically linked Bartholomew to the murder.”

Murderer's cruel taunts from the dock

FROM the dock Bartholomew showed little sympathy towards Andy Hackett's grieving family who sat in the public gallery.

Now he has been convicted his behaviour during the trial when members of the jury weren't present can be reported for the first time.

At times Bartholomew made vile outburst towards police officers and accused one detective of staring at him.

This led his barrister, Richard Vardon, to ask the judge if the female detective could leave the court.

The Honourable Recorder of Preston, Mark Brown, rightly refused and told the barrister: "If your client wants to behave that way in front of the jury then so be it."

At one point, Bartholomew made a shocking 'cut throat' gesture towards Mr Hackett's sister as he left the dock.

The incident was reported to court staff.

He was also seen laughing and joking with his co-defendant, Lee Black, who seemed reluctant to sit close to him, which perhaps indicates Bartholomew's controlling and manipulative personality as described by police.

Despite the serious offence he faced Bartholomew taunted other court-users including the prosecutor Nigel Power QC.

He also showed little regard or respect for the court by refusing to attend on one day of the trial because staff at Preston Prison had refused to let him change his trousers.