A football hooligan who smirked after plunging a knife into the chest of an innocent Everton fan was jailed.
Queens Park Rangers supporter Leon ******, 24, had travelled up to Liverpool on a coach from London with the fish knife in his pocket before committing the horrific attack after a Premier League game at Goodison Park.
Simon Duncan, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court the stabbing happened at around 4.45pm on April 13 this year while hundreds of fans, including women and children, were flooding home along Priory Road near the ground.
He said: “Several QPR fans, including the defendant, used the emergency exit to leave one of their buses to confront Everton fans. The QPR fans appeared to be drunk and spoiling for a fight.”
He described how 20-year-old season ticket holder Nikolas ******* saw one of the QPR fans picking on a woman in an Everton shirt and tried to step in but was then punched and kicked.
While skirmishes developed between fans on both sides Leon approached armed with the knife and stabbed him.
Mr Duncan said: “He recalled seeing the blade being thrust towards his chest and that the male grinned and put the blade back in his pocket.
“It appears the defendant was pleased with what he had done. The complainant saw the smirk and another witness saw a smug smile which soon turned to laughter.”
Nikolas was helped by a passing paramedic and taken to hospital with a punctured lung, but miraculously suffered no lasting damage and was discharged the next day.
Leon, who was easily identified by his silver tooth and sleeve tattoo got back on the bus and went home to Eastleigh Walk, London, but was tracked by Merseyside police through his Twitter account.
When confronted by detectives he denied having anything to do with the attack, saying he got down from the bus to have a look and left because he was scared.
But later pleaded guilty to wounding with intent and possession of a knife.
His lawyer said he had suffered trauma as a child and took to “habitually” carrying the knife after being badly beaten up.
The judge, Recorder Nicholas Clarke, QC, said: “The unfortunate Mr Nikolas *******, a season ticket holder at Everton was doing nothing more than trying to help a woman who had become involved in the fracas. You unfolded your blade and plunged it straight into his chest. You could have killed him.
“Your reaction was to smirk at what you had done. You appeared smug to those who had seen you and were seen laughing by another witness. The location and timing of the incident it seems to me are particular factors to which I ought to have regard. The message has to go out that people who use violence in such circumstances will be punished severely.”
He jailed Leon for five years with an extended licence of three years and imposed an eight year football banning order prevented him from entering any town or city where QPR are playing.
Speaking after the case Detective Sergeant Steve Reardon said: “This was a particularly nasty assault, on a man who was just trying to do the right thing and assist what he thought was a woman in need.
“Today’s sentence reflects the severity of this incident and I hope it brings the victim some sense of justice.
“Liverpool is a safe city to visit, and thousands of football fans travel into our city every week to watch our premiership clubs – I’d like to reassure visitors and fans that incidents such as this are rare and we work with partners to do all we can to bring offenders to justice, as in this case.”
A second QPR fan, Victor *********, 63, of Dulwich, London has been charged with assault and affray in relation to the fighting and will appear before the court in November.