Two street robbers who murdered a father-of-one for his iPhone have been jailed for life.
Richard Smith, 27, and Michael Sexton, 28, were told they would serve at least 28 and 25 years respectively for killing Keith Soons.
Mr Soons, 36, was stabbed in the head with a screwdriver after going to “remonstrate” with the two men who had taken his top of the range mobile phone.
Yesterday, jurors at Bristol Crown Court took just six hours to unanimously find Sexton and Smith guilty of murder.
They also convicted Smith of the robbery of Mr Soons, a charge Sexton had already admitted.
Mr Soons, who had a baby daughter with Sam Ramsay, died from the single stab wound to his head, which had penetrated more than 10cm.
He had chased Sexton and Smith who targeted him as he stood outside a friend’s house in Cheltenham at 3am on February 5 this year, the court was told.
Sexton and Smith, who both have previous convictions, both admitted being at the scene of the murderous attack in Wellington Lane but blamed each other for delivering the fatal blow.
Sexton told police that after the attack, Smith said to him: “I’ve always wanted to know what it was like to kill someone.”
A passer-by found Mr Soons lying unconscious in the street five hours after the attack. He died in hospital later the same day having never regained consciousness.
His wallet and “DAD” ring, which were stolen by Sexton and Smith, were later recovered but his iPhone4 has never been found.
During the two-week trial, prosecutors did not say which of the two defendants stabbed Mr Soons with the screwdriver.
William Mousley QC said: “He lost his life over a mobile phone.
“Each accepts that he was there, each blames the other and denies having any part in the killing of Mr Soons. In fact, the prosecution say that both are culpable.
“They had both robbed him, they had both been acting together before and during and they continued to act together after the attack.” The defendants knew each other from the “cruising” scene around Cheltenham.
Smith, known to his friends as Ricky, was a self-confessed “professional” car thief and Sexton – nicknamed “Puppet” – had previously been jailed for attacking a love rival with a knife.
A pathologist found the stab wound was so deep it was likely to have penetrated Mr Soons’ head up to the screwdriver handle.
In the days after the murder Sexton confessed to his girlfriend that he and another man had robbed someone of their mobile phone.
And Smith’s girlfriend Carolanne Williams made a statement to the police giving him an alibi for the night Mr Soons was attacked – saying he was with her the whole time. Williams has already pleaded guilty to attempting to pervert the course of justice. She awaits sentence.
Sexton, of Moors Avenue, Cheltenham, denied murder but admitted one charge of robbery. Smith, of Fairview Road, Cheltenham, denied murder and robbery.
Giving evidence Sexton blamed his accomplice and said Smith had later boasted of “wanting to kill someone and try and get away with murder”.
Meanwhile, Smith maintained he had only punched Mr Soons in the face and said Sexton had delivered the fatal blow.
However, he stormed from the witness box while under cross-examination after telling Sexton’s barrister to “p*** off”.
Sexton and Smith stood expressionless in the dock as Mr Justice Silber passed mandatory life sentences.
“I have concluded that only one of you had a screwdriver and that was you Richard Smith,” the judge said. “While walking through Cheltenham you saw Keith Soons as he was lying on the doorstep waiting for his friend.
“You Michael Sexton went up to Mr Soons to see if he was okay. You then went back to Richard Smith and said ‘Should we rob him?’ This set off a chain of events that led to Mr Soons’ death just over a minute later.
“You, Richard Smith, had the screwdriver and you inflicted the fatal blow on Mr Soons.”
As both men were led away to start their life sentences, Smith waved to family members gathered in the public gallery.