A SOLIHULL man has been convicted of murder and jailed for 26 years after stabbing a man at a house party and going on the run.
James Atherley, 22, is said to have lunged at Callum Lees, 20, during an argument on the balcony of a flat in Hopwas Grove, Kingshurst, on Sunday August 6 last year.
Police say witnesses described seeing Atherley and Callum on the balcony together, before Callum stumbled into the flat and out into the street clutching his wounded neck.
Despite the efforts of emergency services and members of the public, Callum later died in hospital.
Following the attack, Atherley fled the flat, going on the run to Newcastle.
He booked a hotel room under an alias but after a couple of days he was openly telling people his name, where he was from and going about his life enjoying nights out in Newcastle.
But Atherley got into an argument at a nightclub, telling onlookers – ‘don’t mess with me, I’m wanted for murder’.
And a week later, a witness to the argument saw a wanted appeal for Atherley on West Midlands Police’s Facebook page and notified the authorities.
Atherley was arrested on Wednesday, August 30.
He denied murder, arguing he stabbed Callum in self-defence – claiming he felt threatened by him.
But at Birmingham Crown Court today (August 1) he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 26 years in prison.
West Midlands Police detective inspector Jim Colclough said: “Our thoughts today remain with Callum’s family – he was a young man who had his whole life ahead of him that was cruelly taken for no reason.
“This tragic case shows all too clearly the terrible consequences of carrying a knife and Atherley didn’t think twice about carrying and using one that fateful morning.
“He then selfishly went on the run to Newcastle putting Callum’s family through even more pain and heartache.
“Thanks to an outstanding response to our wanted appeal on social media, Atherley was traced to Newcastle where he was arrested.
“I would like to thank the witnesses who have provided their evidence to the court.
“Their willingness to speak to the police demonstrated their courage and their desire to seek justice for their lost friend.
“We hope this sentence provides some closure to the family and we will continue to offer our support to them through this difficult time.”