Haywards Heath murder trial: Man sentenced to life in prison

A Haywards Heath man who stabbed another man to death in a row over drugs has been handed a life sentence, police said.

Craig Ghochani, 29, showed no emotion as the jury convicted him of killing James ‘Jimmy’ Fitzgerald at Lewes Crown Court on Monday (September 30).

Craig Ghochani has been given a life sentence following the fatal stabbing in Haywards Heath. Picture: Sussex Police

Craig Ghochani has been given a life sentence following the fatal stabbing in Haywards Heath. Picture: Sussex Police

During the trial, the court heard Ghochani stabbed Mr Fitzgerald during a fight over drugs in Haywards Heath at just before Christmas last year.

Jimmy, 29, had been on his bike along Barn Cottage Lane at the junction of Bentswood Crescent around 8.20pm when he was attacked. He was taken to hospital but tragically died on route.

Sussex Police launched a murder investigation following the fatal stabbing on Friday, December 21.

Officers conducted a number of enquiries and a total of five arrests were conducted in connection with the murder investigation – three of which were later released without any further action.

Craig Ghochani outside Lewes Crown Court at an earlier hearing

Craig Ghochani outside Lewes Crown Court at an earlier hearing

Ghochani, unemployed of Barn Cottage Lane, and James Creaghan, 28, of not fixed address, were both charged with murder and possession of an offensive weapon in a public place.

The pair pleaded not guilty to both charges and stood trial at Lewes Crown Court, which concluded on Monday (September 30).

Creaghan was acquitted by the jury on both charges but Ghochani was found guilty for both offences.

Police said Ghochani has been sentenced by HH Judge Laing to life with a minimum of 22 years and will remain on licence for life and a further six-month custodial sentence to run concurrently for the possession of a bladed article.

The knife was discovered in a nearby pub car park. Picture: Sussex Police

The knife was discovered in a nearby pub car park. Picture: Sussex Police

‘Emotional trial’

Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Superintendent Emma Heater said: “We welcome the result given to Ghochani by the courts.

“We understand it has been a difficult time for Jimmy’s family and friends and hope this goes some way to providing closure for all those involved.

“This was an emotional trial and we would like to praise the bravery of the witnesses who continued to assist the prosecution and played a large part in our investigation.

James 'Jimmy' Fitzgerald. Picture: Sussex Police

James 'Jimmy' Fitzgerald. Picture: Sussex Police

“This should be a stark warning to anyone who carries or is thinking about carrying a knife, don’t.

“Regardless of the size of the blade, using it can have a devastating impact on not just the victim and defendant, but their family, friends and the wider community.”

‘One in a million’

The family of Jimmy have issued the following statement: “No amount of justice can ever bring back our Jimmy.

“The piece of us all that we lost that day simply cannot be replaced. He really was one in a million.

“The last two weeks of this trial have taken a lot out of all of us, including the defendants and their families.

James 'Jimmy' Fitzgerald

James 'Jimmy' Fitzgerald

“This tragic event has affected everyone, divided families and friendships and changed lives. We must now take a stand against knife crime.

“We would also like to say thank you to Sussex Police, in particular, the liaison service provided, which has been a constant comfort to us during this difficult time.”

James 'Jimmy' Fitzgerald

James 'Jimmy' Fitzgerald