"Callous" murderers Michael Sexton and Ricky Smith were yesterday convicted of killing dad Keith Soons.
The pair stood emotionless as the jury unanimously found them guilty of killing the 36-year-old in the early hours of February 5.They were today sentenced to a total of 53 years in prison for their crime.Smith was given a 28 year jail sentence for murder and a six year sentence for robbery, to run concurrently.Sexton was sentenced to 25 years in prison for murder and four years in prison for robbery, to run concurrently.
They had both denied murdering Mr Soons, and blamed each other for the fatal blow.
Sexton, 28, of Mauds Elm, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, had pleaded guilty to robbing Mr Soons.
Smith, 27, of Fairview Road, Cheltenham, had denied both charges, but was convicted on each count.
There was relief from the public gallery as the family of Mr Soons heard the verdicts. There to hear the outcome was Sam Ramsey, Mr Soons's girlfriend and mother of his child, Tilly; his parents Penny and Robin Soons, of Cirencester; his brothers Barry and David and his sister Tanya.
With Miss Ramsey were her mother Chris and younger sister Ginny.
Miss Ramsey remained strong as the verdict was given, but as the court was dismissed she and others in Mr Soons's family cried with emotion as they realised justice had prevailed.
Mr Soons's parents turned to Miss Ramsey and hugged her.
There was no reaction from the family of Mr Soons's killers.
After the verdict, the 23-year-old Miss Ramsey told the Echo: "It is the best feeling I have had in a long time.
"A whole year I have been waiting for this has been worth it for that result.
"It is overwhelming. The best thing that I can tell Matilda is that they have both been found guilty of murder, which is the maximum conviction they could get."
It took less than five hours for the jury to reach the verdict that both were guilty of killing Mr Soons, who worked for Superdry in Cheltenham.
Dismissing the court, the High Court judge Mr Justice Silber said: "I would like to pass on to the chief constable my appreciation for the thorough way this case has been investigated."
Speaking on behalf of Gloucestershire police, Detective Superintendent Simon Atkinson said: "As a prosecution team we were delighted with the verdict. It shows that the jury was clearly listening to the evidence.
"In 23 years, I have never come across such wanton violence and lack of humanity shown by Ricky Smith and Michael Sexton on that night.
"This is not about them. It is about Keith Soons, a man who is not going to be with his family this Christmas."
He commended those people who came forward to give evidence, many of whom knew both Michael Sexton and Ricky Smith.
"They came and gave evidence because it was the right and proper thing to do for justice to be done," he said.
"This is one of the most harrowing cases I have had to deal with in my 23 years of policing. The cold, callous nature of Smith and Sexton meant a young man in the prime of his life was left to die on a cold back street, all for the sake of a mobile phone.
"These two men made no attempt to get him the help he so desperately needed.
"A family has been robbed of a son and brother, a girlfriend has been left without her partner and most tragically a baby girl has been left to grow up never knowing her dad.
"Nothing will bring Keith back. There are so many occasions he will be sorely missed – birthdays and especially Christmas.
"Keith's family and partner have acted with dignity throughout such a horrendous ordeal.
"I hope that the verdict will give them some comfort that justice has been done for Keith."
He ended with a note of reassurance about crime levels in Cheltenham.
"It is important to remember that Cheltenham has always been a very safe place to be," he said. "This tragic incident is incredibly rare and has shocked not only the local community but all those who have heard about it. All Keith wanted to do was retrieve his mobile phone. Tragically, he paid the ultimate price."
The court previously heard that Mr Soons had been so determined to get his phone back because it contained photographs of his daughter, Tilly, and he did not want to lose them.
Sexton and Smith are due to be sentenced today.
KEITH SOONS MURDER TRIAL SPECIAL REPORTS, P4&5 OPINION, P8