THE partner of a Newport man who was the victim of a "gruesome" killing in a city pub today paid tribute to a loving dad.

Father of three Lemmy Bullock was stabbed at Harveys pub in Pill late on Tuesday night.

The 36-year-old from Dolphin Court was taken to Newport's Royal Gwent Hospital where he died at around 2am yesterday from severe stab wounds to his stomach.

His partner of three years, Beverley Jones, 40, runs the Alma pub in Pill, where Mr Bullock worked.

She said: "I am devastated. Lemmy was larger than life and a wonderful guy.

"Lemmy always wanted to make people laugh all the time, and everyone liked him.

"He was a hard-working man who loved his children."

Officers had been focusing their hunt on three men last seen in Francis Street, Pill, on Tuesday night after he was attacked in the bar at about 11.30pm.

It is not known how many people were in the pub at the time. Detective Superintendent Geoff Ronayne, who is heading the murder inquiry, told the Argus he believed the men were local.

He said: "This was a particularly nasty, gruesome attack. "Family have lost a very dear member and are very shocked by what has happened.

"Like all of us they want to see justice done." He said there had been an argument at the pub, but said officers were still uncertain of a motive.

A "bladed instrument" was used, but police have refused to confirm its type or whether it had been recovered.

Local people told the Argus they had heard a machete was used. Officers also denied the death was gang-related.

Yesterday police cordoned off the pub in Commercial Road and its two wheelie bins while forensic officers investigated the scene.

A major incident room has been set up at Newport Central police station and more than 50 officers are working on the case.

As well as carrying out door-to-door inquiries they are trawling CCTV images in a bid to identify the three men.

Shocked neighbours, friends and locals gathered throughout the day to pay tribute to "a lovely lad".

Marilyn Collier, 58, Mr Bullock's next-door neighbour, said: "I felt sick when I heard the news, I can't believe what has happened. "He was a gentleman, a real family man - a brilliant father and a lovely lad." Terry Enos, 44, a friend of Mr Bullock, said: "I used to drink with him, he was one of the boys, a great lad." Mourners have continued to lay flowers at the scene in tribute to the well-known local character.

One read: "What can we say? We will never forget your smile. God Bless." Police are appealing for anyone in the Pill area on Tuesday night, from 7pm onwards, to get in touch.

Det Supt Ronayne said: "People are often concerned or frightened about coming forward.

"We want to reassure them that we have specially trained officers who will support them."

Anyone with information about the incident should contact Gwent Police on 01633 838111 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.