A jealous farm worker who stabbed his girlfriend 32 times has been jailed for at least 22 years.
Keith Rizzo still denies “playing any part” in Neomi Smith’s murder at a flat in Brechin last June, despite being found guilty last month.
The 23-year-old was convicted at the High Court in Glasgow following a 10-day trial, where the jury heard he had attacked Miss Smith shortly after seeing her dancing with another man in a pub.
He throttled the care worker, who was originally from Aberdeen, and repeatedly hit and stabbed her.
Rizzo later lied and told police Miss Smith, 23, had been set upon by two mystery attackers who she apparently owed cash to.
At the High Court in Glasgow yesterday, judge Lady Rae branded Rizzo’s account as “fanciful” and told him he was a“jealous and possessive young man”.
She told him, via video link: “Only you can reveal the precise series of events.
“What is now known is that you carried out a savage, vicious and prolonged attack on a defenceless young woman in the kitchen of the flat you shared with her.”
The judge said “what a price” Miss Smith had paid for earlier trying to “enjoy herself” at the pub.
But defence advocate Donald Findlay QC told the court yesterday: “He does not accept playing any part in the death of this young lady.”
Lady Rae jailed Rizzo for life and ordered him to serve a minimum of 22 years behind bars.
She said: “All of this showed a callous attitude of someone who has done his utmost to avoid taking responsibility for this brutal crime.”
A statement from Miss Smith’s family, released through the police, said: “As a family we are totally devastated at losing Neomi, her character will always remain with us all, her smile would light up a room.
“The events from June 9, saw Neomi’s personality shine through, she was the life and soul of a party. So for her to be brutally killed at the hands of Keith Rizzo has devastated us all, he never even knew her given the short period of time they were together.
“No sentence could be long enough for this vile person.
“We would like to thank the police and Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for their hard work in bringing Keith Rizzo to justice.
“We ask now that we have some personal time to reflect on these last 10 months in private.”
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.”
During the trial, jurors heard the couple got together earlier in 2019.
But Rizzo – who already had a domestic abuse conviction relating to an ex – became violent towards her early on in the relationship.
Weeks before the killing, Miss Smith told a friend he had choked her until she passed out.
In another row, he smashed a mirrored wardrobe door and then hurled his iPhone at her. A disorientated Miss Smith was eventually discovered in her stairwell with a large bump on her head.
On the night of the murder on June 9, the couple had been at Hudson’s Bar in Brechin but Rizzo stormed out after spotting Miss Smith dancing with another man.
He later broke down the door to their shared flat and attacked Miss Smith, using two knives to stab her 32 times. He strangled her so hard she suffered small fractures to the bone of the neck, and a pathologist counted more than 30 blunt force injuries.
Forensic scientists suggested Miss Smith had been hit repeatedly at a low height, and pointed out that the fridge freezer doors had dents in them.
After her death, Miss Smith was described by her loved ones as a “truly one of a kind” and a “lovely, caring girl” who would be missed.