RELIEVED Scott Hayes thanked a jury as he walked free from court after being cleared of stabbing a man on his doorstep.

Mr Hayes, 25, was acquitted at Basildon Crown Court of causing grievous bodily harm with intent in connection with the stabbing of Michael O'Brien, in Romany Steps, on the Woodgrange estate, Southend.

As the jury delivered its verdict, Mr Hayes called out from the dock: "Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart."

During the trial Mr O'Brien, 47, told how he was stabbed in the armpit shortly after Mr Hayes and his brother, Lee, called at his home on December 22 last year.

Lee, 26, claimed he wanted to speak with the victim over threats he had made against him.

Mr O'Brien accepted he didn't see Scott stab him. He also did not see Scott with a knife.

However, he said believed Scott was responsible, because of the way he was standing.

Lee Hayes gave evidence against his brother and claimed he heard Scott Hayes ask Mr O'Brien: "Did you feel that?" before making a lunging motion towards him.

The defendant, who has a catalogue of convictions for offences including robbery, burglary, theft, handling stolen goods, assault, threatening behaviour, damaging property and affray, admitted punching Mr O'Brien in the face, but claimed he struck out because he thought his brother was about to be hit.

Scott insisted he did not stab Mr O'Brien. He denied causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

Scott claimed he only realised what had happened when the victim fled to raise the alarm.

He then saw his brother holding a bloodied weapon, the court was told.

Scott, of Swingboat Terrace, Outing Close, Southend, admitted putting the knife though his ex-partner's letter box but said he did so to protect his brother.