A BIRKENHEAD man was this afternoon convicted of murder following a frenzied knife attack.

A jury at Liverpool Crown Court took four hours to unanimously find Denis O'Neill guilty of murdering James Byrne.

Alongside him in the dock was Steven Johnson, who was convicted of three offences of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

48-year-old O'Neill and Johnson, 45, both of Old Chester Road, were further remanded in custody to await sentence in the morning.

During their nine-day trial the jury heard that such was the force used by O'Neill, who was armed with a heavy duty commando type knife, that it penetrated his victim's skull twice causing bleeding in the brain.

A pathologist said that the unusual head injuries occurred where the skull bones are extremely strong and thick and penetration would have required "massive amount of force," said QC John Benson, prosecuting.

38-year-old Mr Byrne, known as 'Shaba' or 'Jaba' to his friends, also suffered two other head wounds and six other wounds, one penetrating his left upper chest, completely severing the cartilage of the second rib, which would have required severe force, and one in his back puncturing his right lung and damaging a major vein causing massive internal bleeding.

O'Neill pleaded not guilty to murder and Johnson denied three charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice involving cleaning up blood, trying to influence a witness and providing O'Neill with a change of clothing.

The stabbing occurred in Old Chester Road opposite Well Lane on the evening of September 22 last year after O'Neill or Johnson had sent texts to a friend of the deceased saying he and his friends were 'snitches' or 'grasses' following a drugs related matter.

Around midnight, Mr Byrne climbed onto the wall behind the block of flats where O'Neill and Johnson lived. He was heard shouting and was holding a bottle.

O'Neill appeared with a large knife and when Mr Byrne fled he followed.

The woman who had heard the earlier shouting was so concerned she went to the front of the flats and had "the great misfortune to witness from a close distance the murder of Jamie Byrne" said Mr Benson.

"She saw the man on the floor desperately trying to crawl away. The man who had been wielding the knife then walked away."

O'Neill then went to his friend Johnson's flat as during the "frenzied violent attack" he had cut his hand.

Johnson also gave O'Neill a pair of tracksuit bottoms. After hiding the knife, O'Neill went to a secluded field via Levers Causeway and later to a friend's home before finally answering his mobile phone to police and surrendering.

O'Neill denied intending to kill or seriously hurt Mr Byrne and said he had forgotten he had a knife in his hand when he attacked him.