Senior Investigating Officer Bob Tonge said:
Today brings to a close a lengthy investigation stretching over a decade.
After Greater Manchester Police's Cold Case Unit took up the case, two men were convicted and have been sentenced for his death.
This was a horrendous attack on a man who had simply enjoyed a night out with friends and now his children are left to grow up without their father because of their callous actions.
I want to pay tribute to the people that have provided vital evidence to the trial as well as the tireless work of all the officers that have helped to secure these convictions.
I hope this case shows that it doesn’t matter how long ago a crime was committed, we will never give up and we will be relentless in our hunt for justice.
While today’s sentence will never bring Paul back, I hope that his family can finally begin to move forward with their lives after 12 traumatic years.”
The court heard how Paul and his friend James Falconer were set upon and assaulted by a gang armed with weapons whilst walking in Clifton in March 2005.
Paul, originally from Eccles, had spent the day with his mum (Susan) and partner as well as a friend in the Newmarket pub in Swinton until around 7.30pm.
At 8.10pm calls were made to police from two different women saying that there was a man being attacked close to the Lord Nelson pub.
Officers arrived at the scene shortly after whereupon they found Paul on the ground suffering from severe head injuries, Paul was found alone, no one else was in the area known locally as the Sandy Path.
Paul spent a week in hospital before sadly succumbing to his injuries, leaving behind a girlfriend who was pregnant with his twin children, who have both sadly had to grow up without ever knowing meeting their father.
New evidence emerged as a witness came forward with vital information that helped secure the convictions.
Paul Croft's mother has spoken about her heartache at the loss of her son as his killers are jailed 12 years on from his murder, saying:
Paul was much loved by all his family and friends and was a loving son with much life ahead of him.
Paul was taken from us in March 2005 in completely unnecessary circumstances. We cannot express how devastated we have been over the last 12 years that his life has been stolen from him.
We miss Paul every minute of every day and for it to take so long to get Justice for Paul has made this all the harder.
He has twin boys that he never met. They are growing up without a chance of ever meeting their dad.
The torment we have felt over the years to know that his killers have been free has made this all the harder to bear. Today his killers have been sentenced, and justice has been served.
We can try to repair our heartache although no matter how long the sentence is, it will not bring Paul back or make our loss any easier.
We need to attempt to move on and hopefully today will now provide closure for our pain over the last 12 years, however, we will never forget Paul or the many memories he has given us.
On behalf of the family, we would like to take this opportunity to thank Greater Manchester Police, who never gave up, for their continued support and professionalism in this matter.”
Our thoughts are with Paul's family and his children today as justice has finally been served upon those who stole him away from them by inhumanely cutting short his life.