A teenager has been found guilty of the murder of James Halewood .

Jurors agreed Michael Wilkinson was the man who stabbed the 21-year-old outside a block of flats in Kirkby.

James fled to a nearby store - telling a shopworker he had been attacked by "Mikey" - but lost his battle for survival around 90 minutes later.

The seven men and five women of the jury found Wilkinson guilty by a majority of 10 to two after almost 11 hours of deliberation.

Wilkinson blew out his cheeks in the dock as members of both the victim's family and his own cried in two separate public galleries.

The verdict came just a day after what would have been James’ 22nd birthday.

During Wilkinson’s trial, jurors heard claims James and his family were targeted by troublemakers in the Southdene area for months before the murder.

His nan, Barbara Halewood, told the court James had been chased through a park by a sword-wielding Wilkinson and attacked by one of his associates in a separate stabbing.

Drug dealer Wilkinson's fate hinged on the evidence of an eye witness, referred to in court as Witness A.

Witness A told jurors he had been passing the junction of Thursby Close and Thursby Crescent on the afternoon of July 7 when he saw a man "lying in wait" outside a flat block.

In a police interview, a recording of which was played to the Liverpool Crown Court jury, he said: "He looked as though he was hiding and, in my opinion, I would say he was waiting for the other lad to come out."

He then described James being punched three times before throwing a push bike at his attacker and running away.

Witness A added: "The lad who was acting suspiciously has come out of the gate, walked right past me, got into his car and drove off."

James Halewood was stabbed to death on Broad Lane in Kirkby

He described the attacker as being "as white as a ghost" and said he left the scene in a black Renault Megane.

Wilkinson, whose family home is just a few streets from the attack, accepted being in the area at the time of the stabbing.

The 19-year-old was captured on CCTV buying a drink at Park Brow News - the same shop James later sought help in - at 12.38pm.

He agreed he was driving a black Renault Megane, telling jurors he drove it past the murder scene around the same time as the attack on James, but that he saw nothing unusual.

Wilkinson's defence case was Witness A was either mistaken, or 'stitching' him up under the influence of James' family.

But Witness A denied knowing James and a police examination of both his mobile phone and that of his girlfriend's found nothing to suggest either had been in contact with the Halewood family.

Witness A's description of the attacker - as slim, "gaunt in the cheeks" and with "scruffy" and "unkempt" dark hair referred to as a "ketwig" - matched Wilkinson's appearance at the time.

And the witness picked Wilkinson out as the attacker in an identity parade.

When Witness A gave evidence, screened off from the public and the defendant by a curtain, Richard Littler, QC, defending, questioned his version of events.

Mr Littler said CCTV of the car Wilkinson was driving showed the vehicle entering Thursby Crescent at 12.41:04.

He said James was first picked up on CCTV at the shops he fled to at 12.42:31 and added: "The prosecution in this case, their case is that this all happened between approximately 12.41:30 and 12.42pm.

"But what you have described, if you factor in him driving down Thursby Crescent and parking up, and getting out, and going over the road, and lying in wait, and you viewing him lying in wait for a while, and then an incident with punches and a bike being thrown - there's not the time for that is there?"

Witness A responded: "I'm sorry sir, but I saw this man probably closer than you and I are right now, walk out of the gate and get in the car."

To further undermine Wilkinson's case, shop worker Barbara Shiers said James told her: "Help me, I've been stabbed by Mikey."

She understood this to mean Wilkinson.

A picture James Halewood posted on Facebook a few years ago

Within hours of James' death, Wilkinson ditched his iPhone. He then shaved his 'ketwig' and went into hiding in the Tower Hill area of Kirkby.

He was arrested five weeks into the investigation.

Wilkinson, of Mosslawn Road, said he "panicked" and abandoned his mobile because: "I started getting threatening messages".

He claimed he heard a "bounty" had been placed on his head so hid from police and shaved his "ketwig": "Because I was still in the Kirkby area and I didn't want anyone to claim the bounty... I was fearing for my life. I just didn't want to get attacked or hurt."

But the jury dismissed Wilkinson's argument and found him guilty of inflicting the 11cm deep wound that proved fatal.

The trial heard claims the attack fell against a backdrop of “animosity”, though witnesses dismissed suggestions the killing was linked to a drugs turf war.

Mrs Halewood, James' nan, told the court he had been stabbed in the thigh by a man named John Barr in April, 2019.

She said James told police he did not know his attacker, but confided in her that Barr, jailed for drugs offences in January, was responsible.

Mrs Halewood also claimed James was chased through Wignall Park, Kirkby, by Wilkinson just weeks before he was killed.

James came home with grazes on his hands and knees and said Wilkinson had been armed with a sword but walked off after he fell before him, Mrs Halewood added.

Wilkinson denied this, telling the court: "It would be stupid for anyone to do that because he was known to carry a big knife."

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The jury heard James had been sentenced to two years and seven months in prison for a drugs offence and possession of a knife in North Wales and Andrew Thomas, QC, prosecuting, said it was accepted James was likely to have been selling or buying drugs in the flat block he was killed outside.

Wilkinson admitted being a cannabis-dealer, saying he was given the Megane to help him sell the Class B drug.

The former All Saints student denied also selling cocaine and refused to name who he worked for, saying it would lead him to fear for his personal safety and the safety of his family.

He denied having any issues with James and said the victim's family had a motive for framing him because, he argued, they wrongly believed his friend Barr was behind the April stabbing.

Judge David Aubrey, QC, will sentence Wilkinson this afternoon.