Jury finds pair guilty of murder in street

Joe Church.
Joe Church.
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Two men face a life sentence after they were convicted of murdering a 20-year-old in a brutal street attack.

Josh Hirst was stabbed near his home in Grove Street, Mirfield, on August 3 last year as he returned from his girlfriend’s 18th birthday celebrations. He suffered catastrophic neck injuries from which he died.

A jury at Leeds Crown Court yesterday (Feb 16) found Joe Church, 21, of Redlands Close, Mirfield, and Aaron Smith, 19, of Saville Street, Emley, guilty by a 10-2 majority of his murder. A third defendant Nadeem Rashid, 21 of Lapwing View, Horbury, Wakefield, who drove them to the area was acquitted of murder or manslaughter.

Adjourning sentence until next Thursday, the Recorder of Leeds, Judge Peter Collier QC, told Church and Smith he would then impose a life sentence but had to consider the minimum period they must serve.

The jury heard during the trial that Church bought the knife used earlier in the day after watching some of his gang friends sentenced for robbery.

After the verdicts Detective Chief Inspector Chris Walker described their attack on Mr Hirst as “cowardly”.

“They lay in wait for Josh wearing masks and then subjected him to a truly brutal assault.”

He said the impact on the victim’s family, who tried to help him in the street, had been devastating.

Father Terry, mother Julie and his brother Jon were in court for the verdicts.

Afterwards in a statement they said: “Our lives have been devastated by the loss of Josh.

“We loved him so much and in turn he was loved by so many and brought joy, loyalty and happiness into the lives of others.”

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