DANIEL Shovelton has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 24 years for the murder of Mark Bradbury.

The defendant, of Saffron Close in Longbarn, was convicted of murder by a jury on Thursday at Liverpool Crown Court.

The 40-year-old returned to the dock today, Monday, to hear how long he will serve behind bars.

And in what was described as the ‘lowest point in what was once a brilliant career’, the former army sergeant was told he will serve close to a quarter of a century in prison before even being considered for release.

During a two-week trial, jurors heard how ‘doting’ dad Mr Bradbury, 58, was ‘battered to death’ in his own home in Station Road South, Padgate, on August 1 last year.

Warrington Guardian:

Mark Bradbury

Shovelton had a ‘desperate and expensive’ cocaine addiction, spending up to £1,000 a month on drugs, and was in debt of more than £53,000.

The prosecution spoke of how the 40-year-old saw ‘small time’ cocaine dealer Mr Bradbury, who sold drugs in order to fund his own habit, as the ‘answer to his problems’.

READ MORE: Inside one of Cheshire Police's most complex murder investigations in years

Shovelton, who served his country oversees in Afghanistan and Ireland, made three trips to Station Road South on the day of Mr Bradbury’s death, and was captured a fourth time on CCTV in the area at 7.10pm.

He remained there for around three hours before leaving shortly before 10pm.

The body of Mr Bradbury was discovered three days later, with a post-mortem investigation concluding that he had died of head and neck injuries.

Hannah Bradbury, the daughter of Shovelton’s victim, read out a statement in court which was described as ‘powerful and poignant’ by Judge David Aubrey.

Warrington Guardian:

Hannah Bradbury with detective inspector Sarah Oliver​

In it, she said: "It is extremely difficult to put into words the experience over the last year.

"It is a pain only imaginable and a living nightmare. The things I used to enjoy I do not anymore, and it does not get easier.

"On August 4, my life fell apart and nothing will ever fix that.

"People say I am brave, but I am not. I'm frightened and scared that I will never stop grieving.

AS IT HAPPENED: Live updates from Daniel Shovelton's sentencing for the murder of Mark Bradbury

"You cannot say everything happens for a reason as this shouldn't happen to anyone.

"My dad made memorable impressions on people and was someone who would give anyone the coat from his back.

"He will be greatly missed."

Warrington Guardian:

Before passing his sentence, Judge David Aubrey said: "In August last year, you battered and strangled to death Mark Bradbury in his own home.

"You had perpetrated a sustained and violent assault on him and also strangled him.

"Significantly, he had injuries to his knees, indicating he was crouched during the attack.

"I am satisfied that you killed him and intended to do so as you were desperate and he was an easy target.”