LUKE Jones has been found guilty of murder over the brutal home invasion death of small-time cannabis dealer Philip Steele, with a jury finding the 25-year-old must have known one of the other intruders was armed with a large machete and had to have contemplated the possibility that he would use it to cause serious injury.
The case against Jones, 25, of Gateshead, was not as straight forward as most murder trials.
He admitted to being one of three men who in the early hours of December 17, 2018, broke into Mr Steele's Whitebridge home in search of drugs and cash.
The others were Jeremy Garvey, who was armed with a 40-centimetre machete that he used to repeatedly slash Mr Steele during a struggle, and a third man who used a baseball bat to strike the 60-year-old when he began to overpower Garvey.
But when the key witness, the intruder with the baseball bat, who pleaded guilty and gave evidence at the trial in exchange for a discount on his sentence, said Jones - unlike he and Garvey - did not assault Mr Steele and was the first out of the house when things went wrong, the prosecution said Jones was guilty of murder by reason of extended joint criminal enterprise; that Jones foresaw the possibility that Garvey would use the machete to intentionally inflict grievous bodily harm but proceeded regardless.
Essentially, Jones went through the window of Mr Steele's house to commit a robbery and climbed back out minutes later a murderer.
But during the trial his defence, led by barrister Philip Massey and solicitor Mark Ramsland, denied Jones knew that Garvey was armed with the large blade and said he never contemplated the possibility that Garvey would use the weapon with the intention of causing really serious injury to Mr Steele.
But after deliberating for less than a day, the jury returned on Thursday and found Jones guilty of murder, the verdict meaning they found Jones must have known about the machete and remained in the house during the stabbing, making him as guilty as the other two men. Jones and Garvey will next appear in Newcastle Supreme Court on April 30 to get a sentence date.
The third man, the one armed with the bat, was jailed last year for a maximum of 15 years with a non-parole period of 11 years and three months.