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A Starbucks manager is being hailed as a hero after he was stabbed to death while protecting a woman employee from a man with a large butcher knife.

Anthony Paul McNaughton, 39, manager of a Starbucks coffee shop in the city's lively West End, died in hospital of deep multiple stab wounds.

The woman, whom police would not identify, was unharmed. She managed to flee out the door while Mr. McNaughton confronted the assailant.

"He protected her at the cost of his own life," said Constable Anne Drennan.

"There is very little doubt that had he not intervened she would have been fatally stabbed or suffered very serious wounds."

Police said the incident arose out of a domestic dispute. The woman's estranged husband, Mirhashem Seyed-Fatemi, 49, has been charged with murder.

The Starbucks outlet has remained closed since the death of Mr. McNaughton, its windows papered over to prevent the curious from seeing inside.

At least a dozen bouquets were piled up outside the closed front door yesterday, some from friends, some from nearby businesses and some from strangers moved by Mr. McNaughton's action.

"We respect your act of courage," read an anonymous card. "You made the ultimate sacrifice for another person's safety. You are a HERO."

Said another card: "Tony, you were a wonderful man and you will be missed by all."

Ali Mousavi, who runs a grocery store next door, said everyone in the West End is talking about Mr. McNaughton's heroic gesture.

"He was a hero, man. He was a hero for the West End."

Mr. Mousavi said he was a regular customer at the Starbucks outlet.

"Tony was my buddy. A great guy. Always laughing," he said. "I'm completely shocked by what's happened. When I came to work Saturday and found out, I just went back home. I couldn't work."

Constable Drennan said Mr. McNaughton and the 36-year-old employee were alone in the store shortly after 7 a.m. Saturday when a man burst in, demanding to talk to her.

When she refused, the man rushed after her behind the counter, pulling out a large butcher knife.

At this point, Mr. McNaughton intervened, yelling at the woman to get out.

Although police generally advise citizens not to become involved with a potentially violent person, this case was different, Constable Drennan said.

"It was an instantaneous situation. The victim made a split-second decision to protect her and he did so at the cost of his own life. Is he a hero? Absolutely."

After the stabbing, the intruder rushed out the back door, dropping his weapon in a back alley. He headed toward English Bay, then plunged fully clothed into the chilly waters in an apparent suicide attempt, according to police.

He quickly returned to shore, however, and phoned police to give himself up.

Constable Drennan said Mr. McNaughton would almost certainly be nominated posthumously to receive one of the city's annual citizen awards.

"This is very, very rare that someone ends up actually being killed trying to save someone else's life," Constable Drennan said.

She said the dead man was not married but believed to be living with a partner in the West End.

The woman employee remains "very, very traumatized" by the event, Constable Drennan added. She had been estranged from Mr. Seyed-Fatemi for two years.

Police, meanwhile, continue to investigate the killing.

The murder of Mr. McNaughton was just the city's second homicide of the year.

Employees at other West End Starbucks locations said they were ordered not to talk about the incident.

Starbucks officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In a press release Saturday, the company said Mr. McNaughton was an employee-partner of the worldwide chain.