A man who murdered the cousin of world heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury during a bar brawl has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 28 years.
Liam O’Pray, 22, was convicted of fatally stabbing Rico Burton, 31, in Altrincham, on 22 August 2022.
Manchester Crown Court heard the seven-inch blade almost completely severed a major artery in Mr Burton’s neck causing massive blood loss.
His mother said “Rico will never be forgotten” by the traveller community.
The trouble had begun after a fight between the defendant’s friends and Mr Burton’s family and friends at a courtyard of bars called Goose Green, the court heard.
Door staff and witnesses told the trial that O’Pray, of Salford, had been a “loose cannon” and was “very erratic” that night.
Jailing O’Pray, who had denied murder, Judge Alan Conrad KC said: “You were a stabbing waiting to happen.
“Yet again this court has to deal with the death, injury and devastation as a result of a knife being taken out.”
Jurors were told that shortly after 03:00 BST “absolute chaos” broke out after O’Pray’s friend, Malachi Hewitt-Brown, was punched by Mr Burton’s cousin, Chasiah Burton.
Soon after, O’Pray struck the fatal blow with the lock knife to the left side of Mr Burton’s neck.
Mr Burton’s mother, Deborah Burton, described him as her “golden boy” in a victim impact statement read in court.
“Throughout the whole traveler community Rico will never be forgotten,” she said.
“On the day he died, a piece of me died inside. I have had my heart ripped out and cut into pieces.”
Michael Brady KC, prosecuting, told the jury it was “standard” behaviour for O’Pray to go out drinking, causing trouble while armed with a knife.
The court heard he had a previous conviction for having a knife in public in 2019.
But O’Pray told the jury he was “not a violent person” and carried the knife “to defend myself”.
Cannabis, cocaine and ketamine were found in the defendant’s blood stream, tests later showed, and he had three wraps of cocaine on him when arrested shortly after the incident.
O’Pray was also found guilty of wounding with intent by slashing and stabbing Harvey Reilly, who was 17 at the time, during the same incident.
Police at the scene were “instrumental” in saving the life of Mr Reilly, but the injuries to Mr Burton, a father-of-one, were so severe he died shortly after in hospital.
“You can blame all manner of things but the fact it is you, and others like you who chose to carry knives, that’s the problem,” the judge told O’Pray.
Mr Burton’s death prompted his boxing champion cousin to post an impassioned plea on social media about knife crime, declaring that “this needs to stop”.
In his Instagram post, Fury said: “Life is very precious and it can be taken away very quick enjoy every moment… RIP Rico Burton may the lord God grant you a good place in heaven. see you soon.”
Paying tribute, his family said Mr Burton “was a friendly, kind soul with humour of a comedian, his smile would and could light up any room”.
“We cannot see how life can go on without him,” they said.
“The images in our minds will never be forgotten as the family and friends that were there that fatal night are scarred and traumatised.
“No parent should have to witness their child bloodied and murdered. No parent should have to bury a child.”
Det Ch Insp Gina Brennand, from GMP, described O’Pray as an “extremely dangerous individual” who lacked remorse.
“Anyone who carries a knife is a danger to themselves and others and I hope this investigation will serve as a deterrent to carrying knives,” she added.