A MAN has been sentenced to eight years in prison after stabbing his best friend in the heart.

Judge Nicholas Dean QC said Richard Harper’s actions left his victim “very close to death”.

Harper, of Park Road, Little Lever, appeared at Manchester Crown Court after being charged with attempted murder.

The 29-year-old had a history of mental illness and was being supported by Axel Thomas through lockdown, who had been his best friend for over 11 years.

Prosecuting, Robert Elias, described how Axel had visited Harper’s house, as they were in a support bubble together, and waited for him while he was out.

Harper came home intoxicated and began drinking more, becoming extremely loud and upset after seeing a letter thought to be complaints from neighbours.

Axel tried to calm him down by “slapping him on the face which had the opposite effect”. Harper began punching Thomas over a dozen times, asking Axel to leave, but he wanted to stay to look after him.

Axel managed to lock himself in a bathroom after being kicked multiple times but Harper “forced the door open and threw a wine bottle at him” which cut him below the ear. This sent Axel to the floor where Harper continued to kick him.

After this Harper grabbed a “large kitchen knife and stabbed Thomas in the chest,” according to Mr Elias.

A neighbour called the emergency services for Axel who had to have emergency surgery to save his life, as he had been stabbed in the heart.

Mr Elias said that Axel said “deep down he (Harper) is a good man but he can’t deal with his emotions”.

A statement from Axel said that he was sad that he “lost a relationship with someone he loved as a brother”.

This attack was carried out while Harper was on a community order after a conviction in 2020.

He was arrested by police soon after the incident and told them he felt a “buzz” during the attack, which they said was very concerning.

Harper pleaded guilty to attempted murder.

Defending Harper, Matthew Curtis, said he has been diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression with Axel forming a bubble with Harper to “ensure his stability”

Mr Curtis said that Harper “accepts full responsibility and is someone with genuine remorse and doesn’t place any blame on Thomas”. He also understands that he’s “got to control his anxiety and depression”.

Judge Dean QC sentenced Harper to eight years in prison, saying: “You have been in trouble before and were the subject of a community order at the time of the attack in January this year.

“You came home to find Thomas, someone who has been for many years a very close friend...for reasons that remain unclear after a period of time you begun to attack him.

“It was a sustained attack that involved punching and taking a knife and stabbing him. Surgery saved his life and he came very close to death and you came very close to being charged with murder.

“Mr Thomas described the very profound effect that your betrayal of friendship and your assault and injuries you inflicted caused.

“It’s very difficult to know why you behaved as you did, it may be partly explained by your mental health issues. What you said to police in the immediate aftermath of these events does suggest intoxication because you said you enjoyed what you did to get a buzz out of it.”

Judge Dean said this was likely to be because of the drinking or other intoxicants but was “worrying”.

“This does provide you with a limited degree of mitigation,” Judge Dean added.

“This offending happened in circumstances it is hoped won’t be repeated in the future.

“You used a weapon, a knife, to stab your friend and you inflicted harm greater than usual.”