TWO MEN have been sentenced to death for the murder of a former North Cornwall man who ran a factory in Camelford and taught microlight flying at Davidstow.
Friends gathered at the airfield on July 1 for a memorial service for Ian Stokes, who opened the factory to build Thruster microlight aircraft on the Camelford industrial estate and also drove a school bus in the area.
He was stabbed to death by two men in a robbery attempt in Gambia on May 12.
Nigerians Michael Chukuibuikem and Stanley Ugochukwu are due to hang after they were convicted by the Special Criminal Court in The Gambia. A third man was acquitted of the crime.
After a service at the airfield conducted by the Reverend Robert Thewsey, Mr Stokes' friends released helium balloons carrying messages of love and farewell.
Originally from the Cotswolds, Mr Stokes moved to Cornwall with his second wife Betty in the 1980s and founded the Moorland Flying Club at Davidstow Airfield.
He was a leading light in the formation of the British Microlight Aircraft Association as its chairman, an instructor and examiner.
Diddie Simms, who learnt to fly with him, said: "Ian had an excellent, relaxed style of instruction which put pupil pilots at ease, but woe betide you if you made the same mistake more than twice.
"He introduced Thruster microlights to Britain and built them at the factory in Camelford.
"He believed in microlighting because it was affordable flying for the ordinary working person.
"He was also instrumental in starting X-Air microlight importing into the UK.
"He drove the school bus in Camelford to supplement his income from the flying school and drove an ancient Peugeot estate in which he fetched fuel and water from his well in jerry-cans.
"For a short time a winch-towing gliding and paragliding school was also started at Davidstow Airfield. Moorland Flying Club had a family feel and Betty and Ian and Henry and all the dogs made everyone feel welcome – special and important – and encouraged their endeavours."
Mr Stokes used to take pupils to the Rising Sun at Five Lanes or the Mason's Arms at Camelford for a celebratory drink after one went solo.
"He was a real character, always close to the wind," said Jo Old, landlady of the Mason's Arms.
Wendy Callaghan, whose husband Ian worked for him as an instructor, said: "He was a lovely fella.
"He'd always help people out, but some didn't treat him with the same respect."
The murderers had also been accused of kidnapping or wrongfully confined Mr Stokes in his house with intent to cause danger to him.
Justice Emmanuel Nkea said the prosecution paraded nine witnesses, while the accused alone gave evidence for the defence.
One of the accused said he saw a huge amount of money in Mr Stokes's safe and later decided to rob him.
His co-defendant agreed to help, assisting by holding Mr Stokes by his neck while he was sitting in the back passenger seat of his car.
"The first accused stabbed him repeatedly until the deceased was silent," Justice Nkea continued.
In passing sentence of death by hanging, the judge noted that the convicted persons were not remorseful.
He added that the manner in which Mr Stokes was killed was brutal, and the law would not permit him to have mercy on them.