A DRUG addict taxi driver who murdered a father-of-four during a botched attempt to steal crack cocaine has been jailed for life.

Preston Crown Court heard how 38-year-old Shahid Hussain stabbed former tattoo artist Michael Dale, who was operating as a low-level dealer to fund his own addiction, in an attack which lasted no more than 107 seconds.

Prosecuting, Francis McEntee said rather than call for help Hussain set about disposing of key evidence in the case, dropping the knife down a grate in a nearby street and dumping his blood-covered shoes in a bin in an alleyway close to a newsagents.

Judge Robert Altham said Hussain unleashed ‘a brutal, forceful and sustained attack’ on Mr Dale and left him dead or dying, as he sought to cover his own tracks.

Opening the case, Mr McEntee said Hussain had been to Mr Dale's home in Charles Street, Haslingden, to buy drugs in the hours leading up to his murder on May 2. CCTV evidence showed Hussain having to find an ATM machine that did not charge to empty his back account of his last £10.

CCTV shortly after 12.30am showed Hussain leave his property, a room above a taxi office in Deardengate, Haslingden, wearing a black baseball cap and patent-effect toe cap shoes.

Mr McEntee said Hussain waited outside for the last customer to leave, before going into 46-year-old Mr Dale’s flat.

In Hussain’s basis of plea, which was not contested by the prosecution, he said wanted to buy the drugs on credit as before, but Mr Dale had refused. The defendant said he then spotted some drugs on a windowsill which he tried to take and an argument and then a struggle with Mr Dale followed, during which the murdered man pulled a knife.

Hussain said he used “excessive self-defence” to then stab Mr Dale five times before leaving the flat one minute and 47 seconds after he had entered.

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Michael Dale (left) and his killer Shahid Hussain (right)

CCTV showed that Hussain took a ‘convoluted’ way home, going onto Peel Street, Sunnyhurst Street, Rudd Street and onto Ratcliffe Street - where he dumped the knife in a drain. He then dumped his shoes in a bin in an alleyway close to Deardengate News, before returning home without his cap and with just socks on his feet.

Mr McEntee told the court that a knife later recovered from a grate did have traces of Mr Dale’s DNA on its handle, suggesting he had used the knife before.

Examination of Hussain’s shoes showed the presence of airborne blood, consistent with the defendant being present when injuries were inflicted. Hussain’s cap was also found at the scene.

The court heard Hussain was sometimes present outside the crime scene as detectives carried out their enquiries.

When he was arrested two days after the murder, Hussain initially said Mr Dale was already dead when he entered the flat, but admitted taking the drugs before he left. He later claimed he was acting in self-defence but Home Office pathologist Dr Charles Wilson said Hussain’s version of events were ‘certainly implausible if not ultimately ultimately impossible’.

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Mr McEntee said Mr Dale's body was found by two customers slumped behind a door, surrounded by a pool of blood.

A post mortem examination revealed Mr Dale had been stabbed five times - twice in the chest and three times in the back - with four of those wounds penetrating through bone. Mr McEntee said four of the five wounds could have proved to be fatal alone.

The cause of death was interruption of the pumping of the heart and/or loss of blood.

Mr McEntee said: “The case shows the grim reality of the havoc brought to families by hard drugs. Both men were in a downward spiral in the previous months and had fallen into class A drug use.”

Hussain, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to murder.

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Mr Dale was supposed to be best man at his brother’s wedding three weeks after he was murdered, Preston Crown Court was told.

The tragic revelation was heard during a moving victim impact statement written by Mr Dale’s mother Marie Allison.

Summarising the statement prosecutor Francis McEntee said: “She talks about being deeply saddened by the defendant’s actions and doesn’t think she will ever be able to understand them.

“She says when she heard of Michael’s death her thoughts went out to the defendant’s family. She felt their pain as well as her own. She accepts now she feels anger because they will be able to see the defendant while Michael will never be able to come home.”

Summarising the impact statement of Mr Dale’s ex-partner, Mr McEntee said: “She finds it hard to think of life without him. She expresses her anger their children’s father has been taken away.”

Mr Dale’s stepdaughter said it was difficult to imagine who would walk her down the aisle now Mr Dale has gone.

Defending, Andrew Altey said Hussain’s attempts to dispose of evidence was ‘amateurish’.

Mr Altey said: “It is a harrowing reminder of the evil that addiction is - of drugs, of cocaine - and the lives it destroys. It reduces the dignity of human beings.

“If there is an example of how it destroys, it is Mr Hussain. He has been reduced from, only a few months before, being married, in his own home, in a good family, to having to live in a room above a taxi office and in the dock today.”

In a letter to Mr Dale’s family read out by Mr Altey, Hussain said: “I would like to say that I am truly sorry for what I have done. I can’t really write in words to say how sorry and regretful I am. I am truly, deeply sorry to the family. I understand now due to my actions a mother and father are left without a son, a brother without a brother, a son and daughter without a father and a grandson without a grandfather.

“I have taken a piece of their hearts and I am really sorry for that. I hope they can find it in their hearts to forgive me one day.”

Judge Altham said: “Once the knife was in the hands of this defendant he used it in a brutal, forceful and sustained attack on Mr Dale. He fled the scene, leaving him dead or dying without any thought for helping him or summoning help for him.”

Hussain will serve a minimum of 16 years and eight weeks before he is eligible for parole.

Speaking after the hearing, DCI Gareth Willis said: “We are pleased Shahid Hussain has finally accepted responsibility for murdering Michael Dale.

“From his initial arrest, right through to the day his trial was due to start, he has protested his innocence and put forward a concoction of lies in an effort to evade justice.

“I want to express my gratitude to the prosecution team who have worked tirelessly to disprove those lies over many months. This left him with no alternative other than to plead guilty.

“Our thoughts are very much with Mr Dale’s family and friends, who have remained extremely dignified throughout. We hope this verdict, and the fact Hussain is now facing a long time in prison, provides them with some closure and they are able to start moving forward with their lives.”