THE family of Wirral man James Byrne who was killed in a frenzied knife attack have paid tribute to the man they describe as being "one of the kindest people you could ever meet".

Jurors today found Dennis O'Neill, aged 48, of Old Chester Road, Birkenhead, guilty of murderng 38-year-old James after a nine day trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

They took four hours to return the unanimous verdict and O'Neill is due to be sentenced tomorrow, Tuesday.

O'Neill's friend, Steven Johnson, aged 45, also of Old Chester Road, was found guilty by a unanimous verdict of perverting the course of justice.

Speaking after the verdicts, Mr Byrne's mother, Jacqueline Fox, said: "James was one of the kindest people you could ever meet and would help anybody.

"Dennis O'Neill has taken away a big part of our lives with James' murder and this can never be replaced."

Detective Sergeant Nick Suffield from Wirral CID, added: "Mr Byrne suffered multiple stab wounds at the hands of O’Neill, who he knew through a mutual friend.

"While today’s conviction cannot undo the hurt that has been caused to Mr Byrne’s friends and family, we hope this result gives them a sense of justice and allows them some closure.

Detective Chief Inspector Hayes, Wirral CID, who also worked on the case, said: "I would like to thank the investigating officers in this case, and our partners in the Crown Prosecution Service, for their work in bringing this case to court, but in particular, I would like to thank the witnesses who had the courage to do the right thing and help us solve this tragic case and ensure justice has been done.”

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.

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.

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.