Shaun Wainwright, 46, described by detectives as a “violent bully”, had denied murdering Simon Holdsworth after they had finished an evening shift together.
According to South Yorkshire Police, a “simple dispute at work” between Wainwright and the victim “was the catalyst for Simon’s mindless, unprovoked and violent murder”.
The 36-year-old victim suffered severe skull fractures and lacerations to the scalp and there were no signs of any defence injuries after his body was found on playing fields at Rainbow Forge Primary School, Sheffield.
Wainwright, of Dagnam Road, Arbourthorne, Sheffield, worked at Fluorocarbon Bakeware Systems (FBS), in the city, with Mr Holdsworth. It makes non-stick coating for the baking industry.
The accused told police he did not murder his colleague, calling him a “very good friend and a workmate”.
He claimed they had a shared interest in fishing and had often spoken about going on a trip together.
On the night of Mr Holdsworth’s murder, in December 2013, Wainwright claimed after finishing work he had sat his in car listening to CDs and drinking lager before going home.
Teesside Crown Court heard that he told a co-worker after being spotted with a section of unused metal rail: “I will take this just in case something happens on the way home”.
And the jury took less than two hours to dismiss his story and find him guilty of murder in a unanimous verdict.
The family of Mr Holdsworth began to cry when the verdict was given and Wainwright was taken down to the cells with little reaction.
Peter Moulson QC, prosecuting, had said Wainwright laid in wait for Mr Holdsworth after the pair had finished work at 10.45pm.
Mr Holdsworth got off a bus and had just finished a mobile phone call as he entered the dark playing fields when he was repeatedly hit with a bar or bat.
Mr Justice Globe said life imprisonment was the only sentence he could pass for a conviction of murder and said he would pass sentence tomorrow morning.
In a statement Simon Holdsworth’s family said today: “Simon was a much loved son, brother, fiancée, father and uncle. Our family have been totally devastated by what has happened to Simon. His life was brutally ended in the most horrific circumstances. Our lives will never be the same again.
“We miss Simon everyday. He will be forever in our hearts. We would like to thank the prosecution team and South Yorkshire Police, particularly DCI Etheridge and his team, for their outstanding and professional way in which they have conducted this investigation and brought Shaun Wainwright to justice.”
Police say Wainwright had “a history of holding grudges against people for relatively minor things”. The detective leading the investigation into the murder described him as “a violent bully” who overpowered Simon Holdsworth and left him for dead.
Detective Chief Inspector Phil Etheridge said: “We know that Shaun Wainwright has a history of holding grudges against people for relatively minor things.
“He’s had workplace disputes before where he has physically assaulted people. We believe Wainwright was angry that Simon would not allow him to get his wallet back. Something so simple, we believe, cost Simon his life.”
He added: “On Christmas Eve, we know that Wainwright told a friend that Simon had been robbed and that his phone and chain had been stolen. This information was not made public until 3 January 2014 – clear evidence that he knew much more than he was admitting to.
“Wainwright is a man who claimed to be Simon’s friend at work and has lied constantly and repeatedly throughout the investigation. He’s physically much bigger than the victim and overpowered him, leaving him for dead – all of this points to the actions of a violent bully.
“He knew where Simon would be that night and he drove to the scene intent on revenge for a dispute he had with him. The defendant has a short fuse and responded with maximum force over a minor grievance.
“Simon’s family have lost someone they loved dearly and Shaun Wainwright’s family have lost someone too – there are no winners here.”
Mark Marriott, Senior Crown Prosecutor, CPS Yorkshire and Humberside said: “This was a brutal crime which has devastated Simon’s family.
“In the run-up to Christmas 2013, Simon was working overtime to buy Christmas presents for his fiancée and step-son and to save up for his wedding and honeymoon.
“Shaun Wainwright denied them that future by viciously attacking Simon with a bar or bat, and severely fracturing his skull. In the meantime, the defendant pawned a gold necklace he had stolen from Simon, and went on to lie repeatedly to the police about his whereabouts that night. He is now facing many years behind bars for his crime. I hope that today’s verdict gives some comfort to Simon’s family and friends. Our thoughts remain with them.”