Teenager guilty of murdering father of four in Essex

ITV News' Rebecca Barry reports on the trial, outside which James Gibbons' mother gave an emotive statement

A teenage boy has been found guilty of the stabbing murder of a father-of-four who had been celebrating his twin daughters’ second birthday.

The 16-year-old defendant stabbed James Gibbons after the 34-year-old challenged a group of youths who were harassing a homeless man, Chelmsford Crown Court was told.

The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, claimed he was acting in self-defence and denied murder, but was found guilty by a majority verdict of 10 to two following a trial.

Family members of the defendant wept in court as the jury returned its verdict on Wednesday.

Simon Taylor QC, prosecuting, told jurors Mr Gibbons was yards from his home in Iris Mews, Laindon, Essex, when the defendant stabbed him four times on May 2 this year.

Mr Gibbons’ partner, Victoria Billingham, said she remembered him leaving their twin daughters’ birthday barbecue to speak to a homeless man, called Christopher French, outside.

“When he returned he told her there were a couple of 15-year-olds that were bullying Chris, taking advantage and eating his food,” said Mr Taylor.

“He then said he was going to have another cigarette outside with Mr French to make sure he was OK.”

She later heard a “loud thudding at the door”, was told to call an ambulance and saw Mr Gibbons was injured, Mr Taylor said.

Mr French, 32, said Mr Gibbons had given him barbecue food to eat.

He said that as he was talking to Mr Gibbons they were approached by two people, with one of them pulling his hoody and the other trying to take his food.

Mr French said Mr Gibbons confronted the youths and that a few minutes later a larger group of youths returned.

He said he did not see anybody attack Mr Gibbons but heard a noise and saw him “wobbling around” before falling on the floor as Mr Gibbons walked back from an alleyway.

Mr Taylor said the defendant searched on the internet for “stabbing in Laindon” and “consequences of accidentally killing someone” in the early hours of May 3.

He said a youth heard the defendant say, in a phone call on loudspeaker to another youth: “I chinged him 25 times.”

“According to (the youth, the defendant) was laughing as he said it,” said Mr Taylor, adding the youth’s understanding was that “chinged” meant stabbed.

The prosecutor said the defendant “willingly involved himself in violence against Mr Gibbons when there was no need to do so”.

He said that CCTV showed that Mr Gibbons was “surrounded by youths yards from his home address”.

“While it could be said James Gibbons was standing his ground and getting in the face of the youths, he was no threat to them and yet he died at (the defendant’s) hands,” said Mr Taylor.

He said that “whether it was to appear a big man in front of the females and his near peers … (the defendant) was intent on violence”.

He said the defendant ran off to get a weapon then came back and used it.

“Deliberately securing a weapon, then returning to the scene, then stabbing a man not once, not twice but four times, we say can only have been accompanied by an intent to cause really serious harm,” Mr Taylor said.

“That’s why the Crown say (the defendant’s) guilty of murder.”

The defendant was remanded in custody while a pre-sentence report is prepared about him.

He will be sentenced on a date to be fixed in around three weeks’ time.