A farm worker has been found guilty of the “vile and brutal murder” of his girlfriend in a frenzied knife attack inside her home.
Following a 10-day trial at Glasgow High Court, a jury unanimously agreed Keith Rizzo, 23, murdered Neomi Smith by stabbing and choking her in her Brechin flat on June 9 last year.
Prosecutors had told the trial he had flown into a jealous rage after watching his 23-year-old partner dance with other men in a local bar, Hudsons.
The pair argued and after she returned home to her Swan Street flat, Rizzo kicked down her front door before viciously assaulting her in her kitchen.
He stabbed her 32 times with two knives, inflicting one wound to her upper back that was so deep it nearly exited her oesophagus.
Rizzo also repeatedly hit and strangled the care worker, who is originally from Aberdeen, with so much force it caused small fractures to the bones in her neck.
Ms Smith’s family members cried and shouted from the public gallery as the verdict was delivered.
Her father, John Smith was heard to shout “I hope you rot in hell” as Rizzo, who did not react to the verdict, sat in the dock.
It took the jury, made up of 10 men and five women, just over an hour-and-a-half to decide his guilt.
Lady Rae, who presided over the trial, deferred sentence until April 6, warning Rizzo to expect a “significant” custodial sentence and describing the crime as the “vile and brutal murder of a young woman in the prime of her life”.
Members of Ms Smith’s family did not wish to comment further when asked.
Rizzo, who was represented by Donald Findlay QC, did not take to the stand and the defence did not lead any evidence.
The trial heard from various witnesses who told how Rizzo had made contrasting claims as to what happened on the night of the murder.
In what prosecutor Duncan McPhie described as “far-fetched” and “entirely inconsistent” accounts, Rizzo told his mother several weeks after his arrest that he found two men in black inside the property when he entered.
He claimed the men said his girlfriend owed them money and took turns stabbing her before forcing him to place his hands in her blood and handle the knives.
He had earlier told police just hours after his arrest that he saw a suspicious figure in the alley and heard a man arguing with Ms Smith while he was in the shower.
However, he failed to make any mention of the two mystery killers at the time, despite being interviewed for over three hours.
The trial heard disturbing evidence from paramedic Angela McKenzie who struggled to recount what she had seen.
The first responder, who has 14 years’ experience, described walking in to a scene akin to something out of “a horror film”.
She said two police officers were performing CPR and holding a towel to large wounds to Ms Smith’s neck. There were too many stab wounds for her to count.
While in custody, Rizzo was assessed by a forensic scientist and found to have 16 injuries, including large scratches to his lower back and a cut to his finger.
He was in his bare feet, which were covered in his victim’s blood.
Ms Smith meanwhile had extensive serious injuries as well as a small cut to her hand ,which the trial heard was likely a defensive wound.
A post-mortem examination found Rizzo’s DNA underneath her fingernails and DNA from blood matching Rizzo on the handles of the knives, as well as throughout the property.
Jurors also unanimously found Rizzo guilty of assaulting Ms Smith sometime between May 9 and May 30 last year at her flat and of acting in a threatening or abusive manner by pushing a table and breaking a glass at Hudsons Bar just hours before the murder.
Detective Inspector Ross Fitzgerald said: “Our thoughts are still very much with Neomi’s family and friends during what is a really difficult time for them.
“The loss of their daughter, sister and friend has been agonising for them.
“This conviction will not in any way compensate for their loss, but Rizzo will now have to face the consequences for his horrific actions.
“Anyone who may be concerned that someone they know is at risk of harm from a current or former partner can contact Police Scotland on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”