Man, 20, is jailed for murder after stabbing a rough sleeper during a fight in Exeter

A 20-year-old man has been jailed for murder after he stabbed a rough sleeper in Exeter during an argument.

Brian Jewell, aged 20, was this week sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in jail for killing 45-year-old homeless man Stephen Cook during a fight in Sidwell Street, Exeter, earlier this year.

Mr Cook died as a result of a single stab wound to his chest after he got involved in a fight with Jewell at the end of January, 2023.


Stephen Cook died after he was stabbed by Brian Jewell. Photo: with permission.

In sentencing Jewell, Mr Justice Saini took into account the defendant’s age at the time of the murder, his remorse and background, lack of premeditation, and excessive self defence.

Jewell, who stood trial in August after denying murdering homeless Mr Cook, was found guilty by a jury sitting at Exeter Crown Court.

After the sentence was passed, the dead man’s family said while justice had been served, the sentencing length would not take away the pain felt by Mr Cook’s loved-ones.

A statement released by one of the victim’s children said: “I wish that we could say the guilty verdict brought us happiness, but that is a feeling we struggle to feel as nothing will ever bring my Dad back into our lives.

“Lives will never be the same without Dad for many people, but Brian Jewell will continue living the life he chooses to lead for the rest of his, and one day will be released and continue to live, make decisions, see his family, and build relationships; something we can never pursue with Dad.”

They said their dad ‘had made mistakes’, acknowledged he could be ‘intoxicated’, but did not deserve to die.

They said he would be remembered as having ‘a golden heart and a beautiful personality’, adding ‘he is so loved and missed every day’.

“Dad will forever be in our hearts and with us in spirit, but his joyful soul has gone forever,” said the family member.

“We miss and love him so much and despite his history, he did not deserve to die in such a horrendous way.”

The court heard how, on the previous day, a knife had been bought for 19-year-old Jewell who requested it ‘for his own safety’.

The jury was told how Mr Cook and Jewell – well-known by other rough sleepers – got into a drunken argument, resulting in the victim threatening the defendant with a broken bottle.

Mr Cook was stabbed after he smashed and swung the bottle at teenage Jewell, slashing his face.

During the early part of the fight, the pair fell into the Betfred shop and were told to leave. A few minutes later a blood-covered Mr Cook returned to the shop and the emergency services were called.

He was taken by ambulance to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, where he was pronounced dead around an hour later.

Jewell was arrested later that evening on suspicion of murder and a witness led officers to where the knife had been hidden, near St Sidwell’s Church in Sidwell Street.

Detective Inspector Rob Back, Major Crime Investigation Team senior investigating officer at Devon and Cornwall Police, said: “This tragic case demonstrates the fatal consequences when a person chooses to arm themselves with a knife in the street and use it as a weapon against another.”

He added: “I’d like to commend Mr Cook’s family for the dignity and restraint they’ve demonstrated throughout this difficult trial. I hope that this verdict brings them some measure of closure and are now able to start to rebuild their lives.”

Joanna Clark, Senior Crown Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: “This is sadly another stark reminder of the fatal consequences of carrying knives.

“Brian Jewell had armed himself that night with a knife and caused the death of Stephen Cook following an altercation outside a betting shop.

“My sincere thoughts remain with Mr Cook’s family, who I hope can find some comfort in knowing that his killer has been brought to justice.”

She added: “Everybody has the right to feel safe in public and should be able to go about their daily lives without fear of being threatened with or harmed by knives.

“The CPS takes knife crime extremely seriously and we have worked together closely with Devon and Cornwall Police to bring this offender to justice.”

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