Anthony Boyd, of Circuit Close, Willenhall, and Artaf Hussain, of Slater Street, Tipton, were both found guilty at Worcester Crown Court today(3).
Robert was stabbed in broad daylight as he waited to cross the road in Hereford on January 29. The 33-year-old tried to pursue his attacker – but collapsed and later died in hospital.
CCTV showed an interaction between Robert and Boyd, 23, outside a shop in the city. Following the conversation, Boyd went in and purchased a kitchen knife, which he concealed as he walked through the city centre.
Footage revealed a further encounter between the two in Commercial Street, with its junction at Blue School Street. In full view of passers-by, Boyd rushed towards the victim from behind and stabbed him once in the back. Boyd then ran from the scene.
The police investigation revealed that in the hours after the stabbing, Boyd left Hereford and travelled to Tipton where he met up with Hussain, 31, at the flat of an associate Luke Mansell.
Knowing the crime Boyd had committed, Mansell, 21, of High Street, Tipton, proceeded to provide him with a change of clothing. Mansell was charged with assisting an offender and entered a guilty plea at an earlier court hearing – he is yet to be sentenced.
Caught with cocaine
An operation coordinated by West Mercia Police on January 31, led to Boyd's arrest in Willenhall.
He was found in possession of a quantity of cocaine, but the murder weapon was never recovered.
Witness evidence suggested Robert may have been stabbed by a drug dealer who was operating a supply line into Hereford, in partnership with a man who was later identified as Artaf Hussain. He was subsequently arrested by officers from West Mercia Police at an address in Dudley on February 15.
In court, Hussain claimed he did not have any contact with Boyd around the time of the murder and did not take part in any discussion or agreement to harm the victim.
Boyd had entered a guilty plea for manslaughter which was not accepted by the prosecution. He claimed that he did not buy the knife with the intention of killing him or causing serious harm to him.
DCI Leighton Harding, senior investigating officer, said: "Robert Eacock was murdered by Boyd, a drug dealer, in a deliberate act of violence. At the time of the murder, Boyd had been operating as a county lines drug dealer for Hussain.
"The victim's initial encounter with Boyd on the morning of January 29, started a chain of events that involved two-way mobile phone communication between Boyd and Hussain, and an agreement between them or encouragement for Boyd to harm the victim.
"This resulted in Robert being brutally murdered in broad daylight, and in the most public of locations.
"Their actions were premeditated and demonstrated a total disregard for human life and public safety. Whilst no length of sentence will ever ease the pain felt by Robert's loss, I hope that today's verdict will provide a sense of closure for his family."
He added: "I would like to pay testament to the members of the public, police officers and medical professionals for their best efforts to save Robert's life, both at the scene and in hospital."
"I would also like to thank the witnesses who came forward with their valuable contributions, and the local community for their support.
"Finally, I would like to thank all police officers and staff who worked on this case for their professionalism and commitment to bring the offenders to justice."
Boyd and Hussain will be sentenced at a later date to be fixed.