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Killer 'sorry' for stabbing tourist

A tearful killer has apologised for stabbing a British tourist to death outside a bar, just before being sentenced to prison for at least 21 years.

Robert Davies, 49, was convicted of reckless manslaughter and weapons offences stemming from the August 2007 stabbing of reality show contestant Lavern Paul Ritch of Penarth, Wales.

Turning in the courtroom to look at Mr Ritch's brother and best friend, who refused to look back at him, the handcuffed Davies cried as he repeatedly said he was sorry for what happened.

"Mr Ritch, there aren't words that can properly express to you how sorry I am for killing your brother," Davies said. "That I could strike a blow with such intensity and such horrifying consequences for your entire family and when it's brought you such pain and grief is a shame from which I shall never escape. I can't ask for your forgiveness because I cannot forgive myself."

Mr Ritch appeared as a contestant on ITV show Gladiators in 1998. A swimming and fitness instructor in Cardiff, he was listed in a 2002 poll of Britain's 50 most eligible bachelors by Company magazine, and was named the 12th most eligible man in Wales that same year in a local newspaper.

The fatal sequence of events started in a New Jersey bar with a confrontation between Davies and a Mexican illegal immigrant named Mario Chavez, whom Davies insulted and who later punched him outside the bar.

Davies chased Mr Chavez past another bar where Mr Ritch and some friends were waiting for a taxi back to their hotel room in an Atlantic City casino. Prosecutors and witnesses said Mr Ritch joined the chase, intending to help Davies.

Several witnesses told police they saw Mr Ritch run up to Davies and quickly draw back, with both hands raised high in the air, saying, "Look, I'm just trying to help you!" only to be stabbed in the chest. Davies told the jury the 37-year-old Briton ran up to him without a sound as a group of at least a half-dozen people were chasing after him, and so he stabbed him in the heart to defend himself before running away.

Judge Bernard DeLury Jr sentenced Davies to 20 years in prison on the manslaughter charge - twice the sentence that had been expected. He also added on an additional 18 months for a weapons charge. A term for a second weapons offence will be served at the same time as the other offences.

Mr Ritch's brother, Anthony, said the family remains devastated by the killing. "How could such a vital, passionate, gentle person be taken away from us in such a vile and horrific way?" he asked. "Words can't explain the pain we feel on a daily basis. He should have been experiencing the rest of his life."

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