A man who stabbed his ex-girlfriend and murdered her new boyfriend in a violent and jealous rage has been told he may never be released from jail.
Gareth Mason was ordered to serve at least 24 years for the brutal knife attack on Lancaster bus driver Adam Stirrup, 28, and his partner Katrina Rudrum at Stud Farm Holiday Park at Heysham.
Mr Stirrup’s heartbroken family described the Stagecoach worker as a “much-loved and loving son, father and brother” who had been ripped from their lives “in the prime of his life.”
Unable to accept his relationship with Miss Rudrum’s was over, Mason, 26, hunted the pair down to the number 4 caravan where they were living after she told him she was seeing someone else.
In the hours before the bloody attack at just before 1am on August 4, Mason, of Westminster Road, Morecambe, had been constantly texting and calling Miss Rudrum without response.
Preston Crown Court heard that as the couple settled down for the night with Mr Stirrup’s 13-year-old daughter, they heard noises outside and went to investigate.
Miss Rudrum, 26, the mother of Mason’s three-year-old son, saw what she first thought was Mason punching Mr Stirrup and, when she challenged him, he attacked her.
As she tried to get back into the caravan, Mason followed her, held her and slashed her throat.
Mason then returned to Mr Stirrup and launched further blows with the knife.
He was stabbed outside a bungalow on Westcliffe Drive before making it to number 8 Westcliffe Grove.
Covered in blood, Miss Rudrum stumbled in the dark to the number 22 caravan to ask for help from a neighbour before collapsing.
The neighbour, a former soldier, treated her wounds until paramedics arrived as Mason fled up Westcliffe Drive, dumping his weapon in nearby bushes.
He said at the time: “I’ve served in Northern Ireland. I’ve seen shootings and bombings but nothing as bad as this.”
Police and the North West Ambulance Service raced to the caravan park, off Oxcliffe Road, and the critically-injured pair were rushed to the Royal Preston Hospital where Mr Stirrup died.
Former Morecambe High School pupil Miss Rudrum was left fighting for her life with major wounds to her neck, abdomen and back and was later transferred to the Royal Blackburn Hospital.
Following the attacks, Mason called his mother and asked her to drive from Stoke-on-Trent to collect him and his son, who had been left home alone during the incident.
He disposed of his clothes when he stopped at Charnock Richards Service Station on the M6 and was arrested the following day at his mother’s home.
Mason, originally from Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, was originally charged with murder and attempted murder but admitted murder and the lesser charge of wounding on what was due to be the first day of his trial on Monday.
On Tuesday, he wept in the dock as Judge Stuart Baker ruled he must spend a minimum of 24 years in prison before being eligible for parole.
But Judge Baker made it clear he would not be released unless he could prove he was no longer a risk, adding: “It may be you are imprisoned for the remainder of your life.”
Mr Stirrup’s family said in a statement: “Adam was a much-loved and loving son, father and brother who has been taken from us in the prime of his life. Nothing can ever bring him back.
“We would like to express our gratitude to the police and legal team for their continued support. We do not think we would have got through this without it.”
Assistant operations manager for Stagecoach Cumbria, Malcolm O’Halloran, described Mr Stirrup as “a well-liked, hard-working member of the team with many friends in work.”
He added: “He’d worked at the depot for nearly two years and got along well with both his colleagues and managers. He was always involved in having a joke with them. He will be sadly missed by all that knew him at the depot.”
Detective Supt. Paul Withers, of Lancashire Police’s Major Investigation Team, who led the inquiry, said he was satisfied with the sentence.
He added: “It reflects the appalling gravity of Mason’s actions. This was a truly horrendous incident which cost a young man his life and which left his partner very seriously injured.
“While she has now recovered physically, she may never fully recover emotionally or psychologically.
“Mason, motivated solely by the jealousy he felt that his former partner had started a new relationship, has left two families devastated by his actions.
“Gareth Mason is a very violent and dangerous individual who now faces a lengthy custodial sentence to reflect on what he has done.
“At least his guilty pleas have spared the families the ordeal of having to re-live these tragic events through a trial.
“Our thoughts remain with the family of Adam and we will continue to support them and Katrina as long as is necessary.”