'Peter didn't deserve to die in this way': Murder victim's sister says killer has broken her family
The sister of a man who was stabbed to death in the street told his killer he has broken their family in a way it can never be repaired.
Melanie Pledger, fought back tears as she directly addressed Derek Pallas, from Billingham, who was jailed for 26 years for the murder of her brother Peter Gilling.
Mr Gilling died after he was stabbed five times during an altercation with Pallas and pal Darren Willans from Hartlepool, outside Melsonby Court, Billingham, on September 29 last year.
Ms Pledger said Mr Gilling had fought a life-long battle with addiction to drugs after taking them as an impressionable teenager.
But despite his chaotic lifestyle he was loved unconditionally by his family, including his mother and son.
Ms Pledger said: “Peter didn't deserve to die in this way. Every human being has a right to a dignified death surrounded by those who live him.
“Derek Pallas denied him that right that night. He also denied Peter's son Alex the chance to say goodbye to his father.
“How much this breaks our hearts you will never know.”
Ms Pledger spoke of the family's ordeal at the police confirming rumours she had first read on Facebook that her brother had been killed and having to identify his body.
“Seeing my brother, a mere 39 years of age, with brutal knife wounds and bruises to his head, that tore me apart inside,” she said.
She also spoke of the loss felt by the family at Christmas. And on Mother's Day, his mother lit a candle in his memory.
Mr Gilling was due to celebrate his 40th birthday soon.
Addressing Pallas directly in court, Ms Pledger said: “Derek Pallas, you took the precious life of what you called an apparent friend.
“In doing so you have broken a family which will not and cannot be pieced back together.
“Something will always be missing.”
She said the fact Pallas, of Marsh House Avenue, Billingham, had continued to protest his innocence for six long months had caused further anguish 'beyond belief'.
Ms Pledger also spoke of the escalation of knife crime adding she hoped significant sentences like the one handed to Pallas would deter others from carrying blades.
“For others, it could make the difference between a loved one returning home,” she said.
But she added: “Peter will continue to live on in our hearts and no matter what the sentence is it's not enough, because he's not coming home.”
Mr Gilling's family sincerely thanked Cleveland Police and the Crown Prosecution Service for their support, hard work and dedication.