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A 19-year-old man has today, Tuesday 26 April, been found guilty of manslaughter at Bristol Crown Court.
A jury dismissed Kairon Sawyers’ claim that he was acting in self-defence when he stabbed and killed Dontae Davis, 18, in Hayes Close, Lawrence Hill, Bristol on 14 October 2021. He was acquitted of murder.
Sawyers was handed a sentence of nine years in custody by The Recorder of Bristol His Honour Judge Peter Blair, with a further 12 months to run concurrently for possession of a bladed article.
Sentencing, HHJ Blair said: “Bristol has had enough of knife crime. This case was the fifteenth incident. The picture of you holding the knife on social media is unacceptable.
“You took your knife, which was a high risk action that was likely to result in serious injury and high degree of danger, although you had no intent to kill.
“The aggravating factors are your previous conviction in 2019 as well as the disposal of the knife and clothing in this incident, to avoid being caught. The sentence is meant to punish you but also deter others in knife crime.”
The court heard that Sawyers, of Whitchurch, and Dontae associated with different groups of teenagers and that there was a history of hostility and violence between the two groups involving threats or use of knives.
During the trial the jury saw CCTV footage of an encounter that evening between Sawyers and Dontae on Clarence Road.
Dontae was walking with two other boys aged 15 and 17. The footage shows Sawyers riding a bicycle and stopping by the trio. He then wheels his bike up a grass bank and stops, before the other three follow him into an alleyway leading to Hayes Close.
Moments later Dontae lay dying from a stab wound to the heart as his friends called 999 and contacted his mother, who also rang for an ambulance.
Warning: distressing audio clip from 999 call and image of a large knife below
The 17-year-old boy, who cannot be named due to his age, stabbed Sawyers and admitted wounding with intent at an earlier hearing. He was today handed a 24-month Detention and Training Order. He will spend 12 months in detention then another year under supervision with restrictions in place and a requirement to undertake training.
CCTV shows that Sawyers cycled away, returning briefly to collect his dropped phone. He was arrested after seeking medical treatment. His knife, phone and top were never found.
Detectives found an image of Kairon Sawyers posing with a large knife on his social media and the month after Dontae’s death, Sawyers appeared in a music video posted on social media. The song’s title and lyrics “Splash and Brag” mean “stab and boast”. The video, shown in court, sees a group burn a green bandana similar to one in Dontae’s possession, an emblem of his group.
Senior investigating officer Detective Inspector Roger Doxsey of the Major Crime Investigation Team said: “Music can be a valuable way for people to deal with their experiences and express themselves. However I believe it’s clear from the lyrics and actions that this particular music video seeks to provoke ongoing rivalry between these groups.
“Sawyers told the court he was trying to change his life for the better, joining a programme which aimed to help him move away from violence, but on 14 October he was carrying a large knife and was prepared to use it. The jury understood that he intended real harm.
“Dontae and the 17-year-old were also carrying knives, and the fight they engaged in had terrible consequences.
“The truth is that carrying a knife does not protect you. Carrying a knife leads to serious harm and heartbreak. We’ll continue to work with our communities and partners on education and prevention to stop further lives being ruined – but rest assured of our determination to bring those responsible for knife crime to justice.”
How we are working with our communities and partners to reduce the harm of knife crime
We recognise that communities, police, agencies and voluntary groups need to come together to protect our young people and help them to understand their value to society.
We know that very few young people do carry knives and their reasons for doing so are complex.
Some of the work we are involved in:
- Violence reduction teams which bring staff from different agencies and groups together to tackle the root causes of serious violence, with the work tailored to the needs of each of our local authority areas. The work includes intervention, diversion and support for individuals who may be at risk of being a victim or a perpetrator of serious violence. Funding for this has been devolved across the five local authorities by the Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner.
- Test purchasing operations to make sure retailers understand and follow the law banning the sale of knives and bladed articles to anyone under the age of 18
- Searching public spaces where knives may be hidden
- Working with the NHS to deliver “Blunt Truth” workshops to schools and youth groups
There are permanent knife surrender bins at The Bridewell, Kingswood, Patchway and Staple Hill police stations in Bristol and South Gloucestershire, as well as at Bridgwater, Keynsham, Radstock and Weston-super-Mare police premises.
If you’re concerned that someone carries a knife, or would like support to make the right choices for a better future, visit our knife crime information page.