A man has been sentenced to life with a minimum of 17 years in prison for the murder of his friend in Cinderford last year.

Michael Beach, aged 46 and of Ruspidge Road in Cinderford, had denied the murder of Scott Hopkins, and instead had pleaded guilty to manslaughter, claiming he stabbed him in the chest “by accident”.

Following a week-long trial at Gloucester Crown Court, jurors returned a unanimous verdict of guilty to the murder.

Police were called to a property on High Street in Cinderford at 10.20pm on Friday 8 December 2023 with a report that a man had been stabbed.

Officers attended along with paramedics, but Scott died at the scene from his injuries.

During the trial, the court heard how Scott had been drinking with Beach and another friend at a pub in Cinderford on the afternoon of the incident, and were said to be in high spirits.

The trio returned to a flat on Cinderford High Street that evening to continue drinking and Scott followed Beach into the kitchen.

Beach claimed he had picked up a kitchen knife to chop up some cannabis when Scott came up behind him. He told the court when giving evidence that he did not know Scott was there and turned around and accidentally stabbed him in the chest.

He said he thought Scott had wanted to give him a hug, but he pushed him out of the way to get past him.

The jury did not accept Beach’s version of events and on Friday (7 June) they found him guilty of murder.

The Judge said that significant force must have been used in the deliberate stabbing.

The single knife wound extended 9cm into Scott’s body, piercing the lung and aorta. Despite the best efforts of emergency services he died at the scene.

Bodyworn video footage was shown to jurors which captured Beach admitting to both a police officer and a paramedic that he had stabbed Scott.

Beach must serve a minimum term of 17 years imprisonment before he is considered for parole, minus time already spent on remand.

Following the sentencing, Scott’s family released a statement, which said: “As a family we would like everyone to know Scott had a heart as big as him. At 6ft 1ins 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 result goes some small way to bringing peace to us all.

“We also want to say a huge thank you to everyone from the investigation who have helped us since the start.

“Every single person has worked so hard to support us and get us to this point. As a family this is the last thing we want to say, as the families on both sides of this case have young children who have to now move on with lives that have changed forever.”

Upon sentencing Beach, His Honour Judge Lambert said: “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 may be you do not know either. What we do know is there was absolutely no need for it.

“I detected a good deal of spineless avoidance by you, both before the 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.

“Scott was a family man and enjoyed a happy family life with his wife and their blended family of five. You bear the heaviest burden of responsibility for stealing a loving husband and father from his family.”

Detective Inspector Adam Stacey, from the Major Crime Investigation Team, added: “Scott was a beloved husband, son, brother, father and friend and his death has had an unbearable impact on both his loved ones and the tight-knit community of Cinderford.

“Beach’s senseless actions on that night have torn apart so many lives. Our thoughts remain with Scott’s family and friends at this incredibly difficult time.”

Richard Parkhouse, Senior Crown Prosecutor said: “Last week a jury found Michael Beach guilty of murdering his friend Scott Hopkins.

“In firmly rejecting his explanation that wounding Scott was an accident that amounted to manslaughter the verdict highlights the consequence of using knives as weapons.

“Actions have consequences ‚Äď 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 living without him and his life that was so needlessly taken.”