A MURDERER who stabbed a man to death as he went to the aid of his friend in a busy convenience store will spend at least the next 26 years behind bars.

Sentencing killer Michael Long to life imprisonment, Judge Patrick Field QC hailed Long’s victim, Keith Harris, a hero for trying to help his friend, Terrence Moore, who was being attacked inside the Premier store on Ainsworth Road, Radcliffe.

“Keith Harris did not stand back and watch. Without a moment’s thought for his own safety, he instinctively and courageously came to the rescue,” said Judge Field.

“He acted instinctively, without a second thought because, clearly, he still had an item of shopping in his hand as he began to tackle you and he he had no time to put it down.

“This was, without any doubt, a selfless act of bravery on his part.”

Earlier this month Long, aged 36, of no fixed address, was unanimously found guilty of Mr Harris’ murder by a jury at Manchester Crown Court.

Long was also convicted of intentionally trying to cause grievous bodily harm to Mr Moore and he pleaded guilty to possessing a knife and cocaine, and causing serious injury to Gaynor Hall by dangerous driving as he crashed into her car while trying to flee the scene. She suffered a fractured sternum.

READ MORE: Knifeman uttered 'die' as he plunged knife into victim's chest

The court had heard how Mr Harris and Mr Moore were accosted by drunken Long in Ainsworth Road, Radcliffe, just before 7.30am on August 15 last year.

When a request for a cigarette was refused Long went to his girlfriend’s house nearby, armed himself with a knife and tried to attack and rob Mr Moore as he walked to the nearby Premier convenience store.

As they fell through the store door Mr Harris, who had walked on ahead, tried to help his friend and was fatally stabbed in the chest by Long.

Giving evidence, Mr Moore had told the court how he heard the attacker utter the word “die” as Long plunged a knife into Mr Harris’ chest.

Even then, Long tried to claim to shocked store staff and shoppers that the men had tried to rob him and continued to punch Mr Moore as he tried to tend to his dying friend.

READ MORE: Radcliffe murder trial accused refuses to give evidence

Long then fled the scene fled, crashing a Citroen car at the junction with Wilson Road.

When he was arrested and in the police van, he attempted to snort cocaine from a bag he had on him.

Long admitted he stabbed Mr Harris but denied it was murder. He claimed to have no recollection of the attacks, alleging that he had spent the previous night drinking 12 cans of strong lager and taking cocaine.

READ MORE: Vicious knifeman found guilty of murder

At the sentencing hearing a victim statement from Mr Harris’ father, David, was read out.

He told how Mr Harris, is the youngest of five children and described how he and his wife had seen him the day before he died. He was excited about starting a new job as a decorator.

Mr Harris stated: “We, at the moment cannot focus on the happy times as the pain is too overwhelming and overbearing.

“That night we said goodbye at the door — little did we know this would be the last time we would ever see our beloved son.

“We will hold him in our heart forever.”

He added: “Keith’s siblings considered the way he died was as a hero, that’s Keith. He was helping his friend Terry — he was always will to help people, particularly family and friends.

“We only have to close our eyes and imagine his smiling face as he was such a happy, outgoing person, with a smile that lit up the room.

Mr Harris had a daughter, April.

“April feels cheated that she never got to say goodbye to her dad because he was taken away in this most cruel way,” said Mr Harris.

Speaking after the sentencing, senior investigating officer, Duncan Thorpe, said: “Keith Harris’ life was tragically cut short because of Long’s senseless and unprovoked actions.

“My thoughts are with Keith’s family who have been left devastated by his death and are still coming to terms with their loss.

“Whatever the sentence it will never bring him back, but I hope they find some comfort knowing that Long is now in prison for a very long time.”

Paying tribute, Mr Harris' family added: “We as a family are overwhelmed and thankful for all the support we have received following the murder of Keith.

“Keith was a loving son, dad, brother and uncle.

“His smiling face will be missed by us all. This has left a huge hole in our hearts which will take a long time to heal.

“He will stay in our hearts and will be forever loved and forever cherished.”