A MAN has been found guilty of murdering a father-of-one who was beaten and stabbed to death.

Chris Carroll, 20, of Pevensey Close, Pitsea, had denied the murder of Darren Kelly, who was stabbed near Caister Drive, Pitsea, on October 20 last year.

But a jury at Chelmsford Crown Court this afternoon returned a guilty verdict after a six-week trial.

Two 17-year-old boys and a 16-year-old girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had stood trial alongside Kelly, and all denied murder.

But the jury found the three teenagers not guilty of the charges against them.

Carroll will be sentenced tomorrow morning. He has been warned he faces life imprisonment.

The trial heard Mr Kelly was stabbed after being lured to Caister Drive.

Members of the public gave him first aid before paramedics and an air ambulance arrived.

But the 42-year-old father of Voysey Gardens, Pitsea, later died from his injuries at Basildon Hospital.

The teenage girl had arranged to meet Mr Kelly via a messaging app.

But Mr Kelly had thought he had been speaking to a woman and there was no evidence that he was interested in underage girls. 

He was chased and assaulted, before Carroll stabbed him several times.

The court heard attempts had been made to dispose of the evidence.

Carroll had thrown his hooded top into a wheeled bin in St Mary’s Crescent, Pitsea, and the murder weapon, a hunting knife, into Opal Lake near Burnt Mills Road.

Forensic tests confirmed the knife was the murder weapon and had also been used to slash the tyres of Mr Kelly’s car, which was parked in Edinburgh Way. 


'Vicious attack'

Speaking after the hearing, senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Stephen Jennings, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: "While nothing will bring Darren back, we hope the verdict will help give his family some closure so they can move forward. 

"Darren was viciously attacked and lost his life due to the completely unfounded belief that he intended to meet an underage girl.

"Essex Police strongly deter anyone from vigilante behaviour at any level. They could be acting upon inaccurate information and putting innocent people at serious risk. 

"Anyone who has a genuine concern about potential criminal activity should always contact us so that we can investigate and not take the law into their own hands.

"I also want to reassure the residents of Basildon that knife crime is an issue that we take extremely seriously and we remain committed to putting offenders before the courts and working with our partners to make our communities safer.”


'Darren was an all-round good guy'

Mr Kelly’s family said: "We have been left devastated by Darren’s cruel, needless murder by this shameless individual. 

"Whatever the sentence given, to us it will never be enough and certainly will never be enough to make up for our loss. 

"His heinous actions of not only what he did that night, but his attitude shown in the court when presented with what he had done to another human being, was very upsetting to witness.

"Darren was a kind, hard-working, caring, fun- loving all round good guy. 

"He would never hurt anyone and did so many good deeds for people over the years. 

"Since his death, we have heard of so many more good things he had done for people unbeknown to us. 

"He was a selfless man and never needed praise for helping someone.

"His death has left a very large hole in our lives. 

"He was not only a wonderful son, but a brother, a friend and especially the best father a girl could ever have. His daughter didn’t just lose a father, she also lost a friend. 

"Darren was divorced from his daughter’s mother for some years and was just about to start a new life with his partner and her two sons in Kent at the end of October 2015. 

"But due to the cruel actions on that night in October, their future plans were ruined. 

"We feel that Pitsea will be a somewhat safer place now that this individual has been taken off the street. 

"We would like to thank everyone involved in the investigation and prosecution of this case.

"If this stops someone carrying a knife in the future, then at least something good has come from this.

"R.I.P Darren. We will love, miss and remember you forever xxx.”

Carroll will be sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court tomorrow at 10am.