Courtney Valentine-Brown murder: Four guilty of killing

Courtney Valentine-Brown Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Courtney Valentine-Brown was described as "cheeky but loveable"

Four people have been found guilty of killing a man in a row over a debt.

Courtney Valentine-Brown, 36, died after being stabbed in the leg in Roots Hall Drive, Southend, on 22 February.

Ian Slater, 50, of Wayletts, Leigh-on-Sea, and Alex Stephens, 36, of Hamlet Court Road, Westcliff, were convicted of his murder at Basildon Crown Court.

Kelly King, 31, of Howards Close, Westcliff, and Stuart Pearson, 44, of Satanita Road, Westcliff, were found guilty of manslaughter.

The four will be sentenced at the same court on Wednesday.

Image copyright Essex Police
Image caption Ian Slater and Alex Stephens were convicted of murder

Mr Valentine-Brown, who was described as a "cheeky but loveable" man, was attacked at the flat he rented from King just before midnight on 21 February.

The trial heard a dispute over a debt had led Slater, acting on behalf of Mr Valentine-Brown's landlady, King, to hire the other two men to confront him.

They travelled to the flat armed with weapons with a plan to evict him, the court heard.

During the confrontation Stephens stabbed Mr Valentine-Brown in the leg, severing a major artery. He died from blood loss.

Det Ch Insp Daniel Stoten described the death as a "tragic and ruthless murder".

"Slater, King, Stephens and Pearson acted together to confront Courtney. Slater and Stephens armed themselves, a clear indication of their intent to cause harm," he said.

Image caption The murderers confronted Mr Valentine-Brown at a block of flats

In a statement Mr Valentine-Brown's grandfather VC Brown said he was full of talents and gifts and called for the government to crack down on knife crime.

He said: "Yet again we have another grieving family standing here because a loved one has been murdered as a result of knife crime.

"When will people realise you are more likely to use a weapon if you are carrying one.

"Throughout the trial we were told that the defendants were just going to talk to Courtney, but they decided to take weapons with them on that night and, to that end, Courtney was murdered - never to get married, never to have children, and never to fulfil his dreams."

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