THE Forest of Dean man found guilty by a jury of murdering Scott Hopkins has received a mandatory life sentence and told that he would have to serve a minimum of 16 years and 183 days before he could be considered for parole.

Judge Julian Lambert at Gloucester Crown Court told Michael Beach, 46, of Ruspidge Road, Cinderford that he had stabbed his friend Mr Hopkins in the chest with a kitchen knife and killed him.

Judge Lambert added: “The highly distressing nature of this case is accentuated by the fact that we simply do not know why you did what you did.

“It maybe you don’t know either. What we do know is that there was absolutely no need for it.

“I detected a good deal of spineless avoidance by you, both before trial and at trial. The jury was sure that your account of pushing the deceased, with a knife in your hand, to get past him, when he was about to give you a hug, was another piece of avoidance.

“The pathologist’s evidence was that more than mild force was used to cause the wound which was extended nine centimetres into the body of the deceased.

“Scott Hopkins was 36 years old when you killed him. He was a family man and enjoyed a happy family life with wife Naomi and their blended family.

“He was a joker and is described the life and soul. He brought so much happiness and joy to family life.

“The family have been robbed of a much-loved husband and father. His death has caused emotional and financial devastation on his family.

“You bear the heaviest burden of responsibility for stealing a lovely husband and father from his family. People will ask, quite rightly, how could you do this to your friend?”

Beach was told that the judge had taken into consideration a number of matters in mitigation including an element of remorse, some attempts to assist the victim and a lack of pre-mediation before deciding the minimum term he would serve.

Scott Hopkins’ wife Naomi said in a victim statement: “In the few years we were together he brought me so much happiness and joy. He was always making jokes. I miss this so much and its sad that I will never get that back.

“I can’t even put this into words. We are experiencing the complete loss as a family unit. Scott was the one who held us together. He was the glue of our family.

“I feel I have lost everything. I don’t feel happy or excited when I should do. I have notice how different I am now as I have completely lost my mojo and any motivation. I feel as if I have had a mental breakdown and don’t know how to get out of this situation.”

Speaking on the steps of Gloucester Crown Court Detective Inspector Adam Stacey read out a statement on behalf of Mr Hopkins family: “As a family we would like everyone to know that Scott had a heart as big as him. At six-foot one inch his character was as big and bold as he was.

“He will be eternally missed, forever loved and consistently remembered. Nothing will ever bring Scott back, but this sentence goes some small way in bringing peace to us all.

“We also want to say a huge thank you to everyone involved in the investigation who has helped us since the start. Every single person has worked so hard to support us to get us to this point.

“As a family this is the last thing we want to say. Families on both sides of this case have young children who have to move on with their lives, which has changed forever.”

Beach had been out drinking with his friend Scott on the afternoon of December 8 last year, before moving on to a friend’s flat in Cinderford to continue socialising.

At 10.05pm that evening, emergency services received a call about an injured man at the flat. Upon arriving at the scene, they found Scott on the kitchen floor with a single stab wound to the chest.

Despite every effort to save him, Scott was pronounced dead at 11:08pm. Beach claimed that he had stabbed Scott accidently but, following a police investigation, was charged with murder by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Richard Parkhouse of the Crown Prosecution Service said: “Last week a jury found Michael Beach guilty of murdering his friend Scott Hopkins, firmly rejecting his explanation that wounding Scott was an accident that amounted to manslaughter.

“The verdict highlights the consequence of using knives as weapons – for Michael Beach, a life sentence of which he must serve a minimum time of 17 years in prison; for the family and friends of Scott Hopkins, a life spent without their loved one, who was so needlessly taken.”