A MAN armed with axes has been convicted of murdering a popular car wash worker.

After savagely attacking family dog Leo, Nathan Davis, 26, sliced the neck of 47-year-old Craig Barker at his home on Cleatlam Close in Hardwick, Stockton, severing a major artery and forcing him to slump over the bath covered in blood. 

The Northern Echo:

Picture: Cleveland Police

Mr Barker was airlifted to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough but died from his injuries two days later, while Leo had to be put down. 

Davis showed no emotion as a jury at Teesside Crown Court on Tuesday morning delivered their unanimous verdict after about five and a half hours of deliberations.

Armed with axes, Davis, who had spent the morning smoking cannabis, crept into the property to hunt for a man he believed had assaulted his girlfriend only hours earlier.

When he discovered her swollen face on the morning of July 22, he told her to "get in the car" and that he'd go and "ask myself" what had happened.

He entered the house through the back door, went up the stairs, and started swinging his axe at the family's Staffordshire Bull Terrier Leo.

As Mr Barker left the bathroom with a steam mop to defend himself, Davis, of Wylam Road, swung the axe at him, leaving those in the house, including children, petrified.

The Northern Echo:

Picture: Cleveland Police

As those who witnessed the savage attack, which was all over in less than 90 seconds, tried to call the emergency services and come to terms with what had happened, prosecution witnesses alleged Davis shouted "do yous want to be f***g next?" to those who challenged him.

He then fled the property on Cleatlam Close and was arrested in Darlington after three days of being on the run.

In that time, he'd waded through a river, ran through woodland and threatened to throw himself off an embankment before police negotiators were brought in.

He insisted throughout the trial that Mr Barker had bent down to pick up the dog when he was struck by the axe and he had not intended to cause him any harm, let alone kill him, and he only went into the house to avoid another dog that was in the garden.

He also told police in his interviews he didn't intend for anyone in the house to die and the axes were for self defence.

Davis was also found guilty of two charges of carrying an offensive weapon. He will be sentenced this afternoon.