BLAIR Dixon’s world was depressingly familiar.

Anybody who regularly spends time in Cumbria’s busy criminal courts will recognise it: an implacably grim place where drugs are commonplace, cash is king, and scores – real or imagined – are ‘settled’ with violence.

At 25, Dixon was already a part of this underworld.

A small-time drug dealer, he had embraced a lifestyle that revolved around illicit drugs and brought rewards he liked to flaunt: £200 trainers, an Adidas hoodie. Even his underpants cost £60.

He was particularly fond of his woollen Canada Goose hat.

Also a part of this ‘gangster’ lifestyle was the choice that would ultimately prove to be deadly – his habit of carrying a knife ‘for protection’.

The early warning signs of the tragedy to come were clearly there before the morning of April 12, when Dixon arrived at the home of 37-year-old John Cingelis in Brantwood Avenue, Harraby.

When he was only 13, Dixon tried to kill himself but was saved by his sister, Carlisle Crown Court heard. When he was 16, his mother died.

In the years that followed, he found a new – and clearly dangerous – direction for his life as he began regularly using and then selling drugs such as cannabis.

Inevitably, Dixon began to accumulate convictions: shoplifting, antisocial behaviour, assaults.

The first obvious sign of the violence that lay ahead came in November, 2016. Dixon appeared at the city’s Rickergate Magistrates' Court. The allegation he faced was a “common assault,” the least serious in law.

Yet the details were disturbing. The prosecutor gave the court a summary of what Dixon’s sister, the victim, said happened.

“She went upstairs and he followed her into the bedroom and stamped on her head a total of five times in the presence of [a child],” the lawyer told the court.

“He then ran downstairs and she followed him.

“At the bottom of the stairs, he punched her and then dragged her to the ground before punching her repeatedly in the face.”

Three years before he killed, Dixon’s offending took a more sinister turn: he was prosecuted for threatening a man with a Samurai sword. In court, his explanation was a claim that the victim “badmouthed” him.

Tragically, by April 12 this year, Dixon’s simmering anger with the world, and his habit of carrying a knife, combined with tragic effect.

That was the day Dixon – furious because he wrongly believed that Mr Cingelis or his housemate had taken his hat – arrived to claim it back.

It was suggested Dixon really went to the house that morning because he wanted to “swap” drugs. Whatever the truth, the encounter ended with extreme violence – Dixon stabbing first one man and then Mr Cingelis, who died minutes later.

After Dixon admitted manslaughter, Judge Simon Medland QC said of him: “He’s admitted he deliberately armed himself and was in the habit of carrying a knife because he was a low level drug dealer. He went to the house armed with a knife.”

Defence QC Michael Webster said that Dixon ‘feared’ being attacked; that knife-carrying was a part of his “lifestyle”.

That choice last week helped to earn Dixon 12 years in jail.

It also cost the life of a young man, whose family were in court to see Mr Cingelis’ killer face his punishment as Judge Medland spoke of how the killing was “another terrifying example of the devastation drugs bring into people’s lives”.

Carrying knives is a deadly part of of that toxic culture, the judge observed.

The judge said he had been moved by the dignity of Mr Cingelis’ family.

Their poignant statement spoke of how the victim’s father was left “inconsolable”; and how his mother – undergoing chemotherapy at the time for cancer – had ceased the treatment, no longer wishing to live.

Mr Cingelis’ sister was “overwhelmed”, becoming so ill that she was hospitalised. “We know John had his struggles in life,” said the statement. “We acknowledge that. However, he really was genuinely, out of all of us, the one person who had the biggest heart.

“He was truly someone who would do anything for anyone and we, as a family, will miss him forever.”

Speaking after Dixon was jailed, Detective Chief Inspector Jenny Beattie, who was the senior officer on the case, said: “This is a tragic case that appeared to start with a low-level dispute over a piece of clothing.

“What it shows is that any use of knives in a dispute can end in serious injury or, as has been demonstrated here, the loss of someone’s life.

“We do not have some of the problems with knife crime in Cumbria that can be seen in other places – but we are never complacent and this shows exactly what can happen. Dixon’s actions have left a family grieving and Mr Cingelis’ life was cut tragically short.”

She thanked the family of Mr Cingelis for their courage and dignity.

Earlier this month, Cumbria Police and Crime Commissioner,Peter McCall revealed how the Community Covid19 Recovery fund recently supported a new project which aims to address knife crime.

The Tackling Knife Crime Project, run by Resource Creatives, is a remote service which works one-on-one with young people known to have been involved in carrying weapons, or involved in knife crime.

Mr McCall said: “We need to raise awareness and educate young people on how carrying a weapon, even if the intention is not to use it, is dangerous, anti-social and is likely to lead to a criminal record.

“Nobody wants to see young people being criminalised but they need to be clear, carrying knives or other weapons, is unacceptable and there are serious consequences if you do.

“Young people need to learn that carrying a knife is not a victimless crime and that by carrying weapons they bring fear into local communities and create an environment where people do not feel safe in the area they live in. It also potentially makes them more vulnerable to serious injury themselves.

“The project will educate and support people who have been apprehended for carrying weapons or who may be on the cusp of being drawn into negative weapon related associations.

“By accepting responsibility for their actions, increasing responsibility and highlighting a greater victim awareness, it is hoped the participants will think more carefully about their long term futures and be able to set positive targets for themselves that may prevent them from moving into criminality.”

Superintendent Andy Wilkinson praised the initiative. “Initiatives like these are important to make everyone aware of the consequences that carrying a knife can have, even if it not used they could face a prison sentence or face the risk of the knife being used against them.

“We’re not complacent and take the issue extremely seriously and will continue to be proactive in our approach to tackle knife crime. There is absolutely no reason for people to carry knives in Cumbria to make themselves feel safer,” he said.