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A burglar was jailed for a minimum 27 years today for killing a brave street cleaner who tried to stop him with his broom.
Piotr Mikiewicz, 40, was stabbed through his heart as he tackled Roger Buckingham as he was leaving a house with a stolen laptop.
Buckingham, 31, of Shepherd's Bush, west London, was found guilty of murder at the Old Bailey and jailed for life.
The Recorder of London Judge Brian Barker said "cowardly" Buckingham must serve at least 27 years.
Buckingham, a petty criminal and drug addict with 25 previous convictions for 51 offences, had taken the life of an exceptional man.
The judge said:
"He was a brave man who acted beyond the call of duty. He ignored his own safety and he paid for his actions with his life.
"He was a truly exceptional man. He was a valued member of the community."
Buckingham had acted "in frustration and temper", said the judge. "On any view, it was cowardly and selfish."
The court heard the Polish national Mr Mikiewicz was working in Rylett Road, Shepherd's Bush, in August, last year, when Buckingham broke into a house.
He tripped the burglar alarm and was making his getaway with £30 and a laptop when Mr Mikiewicz saw him and hit him with his broom to stop him getting away.
But Buckingham had taken a knife from the kitchen and stabbed the public-spirited cleaner.
He ran off while local people tried in vain to help Mr Mikiewicz on the ground.
Prosecutor Aftab Jafferjee QC said Mr Mikiewicz had shown a "laudable sense of civic duty and right and wrong".
"That man, armed only with his dust cart and broom, took on the defendant, striking him in order to apprehend him and prevent him leaving with the fruits of his crime.
"It was a terrible and needless waste of the life of a man who provided a service to the local community and did that which we all wish we had done."
Buckingham had claimed the death was "a terrible accident" but the jury took only four hours to convict him of murder.
The murder weapon was found abandoned in an Opel Zafira, which Buckingham stole from a petrol station a few days previously.
It had been ticketed by a traffic warden in Bentworth Road, near Buckingham's home that morning.
Buckingham was later arrested at his girlfriend's home as he made plans to flee to Cyprus.
Buckingham stood with his hands behind his back as he was sentenced. His family had earlier shouted abuse at the jury.
Mr Mikiewicz's sister Anna told the court in a statement that her brother had been living in London for nine years and considered it his home.
"He was a wonderful man, full of compassion for others. He did not tolerate lies and theft. He was a believer and lived according to these principles."
Busie Mikiewicz said her husband was a "brave and selfless man who wasn't frightened to stand up for what he believed was right".
She added in a statement:
"He was someone who represented everything that is good about decent people and was prepared to fight for what was right.
"Anyone who knew Piotr knew he was a truly good and honest person. He had a strong sense of what was right and wrong.
"He wasn't just a road sweeper, he was part of the community that genuinely cared for him.
"Piotr was a truly good person who was immensely proud of the job he did.
"A cruel and thoughtless act can take away his life, but not the inspiration that he brought to so many people."
Detective Chief Inspector Matt Bonner said:
"Piotr Mikiewicz demonstrated extreme courage when he spotted Buckingham leaving a house he had burgled moments earlier.
"He acted on pure instinct to right a wrong but unfortunately paid for his brave act with his life."
Serco, who had employed Mr Mikiewicz on behalf of Hammersmith and Fulham council, said a memorial fund set up for his family had reached around £30,000.