A man was today (Tuesday March 21) found guilty of the “brutal” killing of his student boyfriend in a furious reaction to finding messages from other men on his phone.

The jury in the trial of 21-year-old Aaron Ray, who denied the murder of Jason Brockbanks in a cold-blooded stabbing in his bed at a student accommodation complex, in Newcastle, took little more than 90 minutes to return a unanimous guilty verdict on the seventh day of the trial at the city’s crown court.

The Northern Echo: Convicted killer Aaron Ray, 21Convicted killer Aaron Ray, 21 (Image: Northumbria Police)

Ray claimed that in a confrontation that followed his discovery of the messages Mr Brockbanks reacted angrily, striking him, and so he grabbed a knife from a nearby desk and slashed out with it, in self-defence.

He claimed Mr Brockbanks then grabbed him by the waist as he tried to leave the flat and pulled him back down onto him, on the bed, while he (Ray) was still holding the knife.

Read more: Sunderland man Aaron Ray denied murder of Jason Brockbanks in bedroom

Ray claimed that not realising the extent of his boyfriend’s injuries, he replaced the knife in the communal kitchen and left the flat, before walking back to the city centre to take a taxi to his parents’ home in Sunderland.

The tragic incident took place in the early hours of Saturday September 24, last year, at the Mansion Tyne accommodation block, in Howard Street, which 24-year-old Mr Brockbanks, from Whitehaven in Cumbria, had only arrived at ten days earlier, prior to the start of the new academic term.

During the trial, the jury heard that the two men had met via the gay dating app Grindr, three months earlier.

On his return to Newcastle to resume his studies at Northumbria University, following the summer break back in Cumbria, he met up again with Ray, who had spent at least one previous night at his boyfriend’s flat.

The court heard that in the hours before the killing, the pair had enjoyed a night out in Newcastle’s so-called ‘Pink Triangle’, bars and clubs to the west of the city’s Central Station popular with the gay community.

But it was as they walked back to the flat that the apparently happy mood was said to have changed.

Ray suspected Mr Brockbanks had receiving messages from other men on Grindr, which he denied.

As they reached Mansion Tyne, smoking outside the main entrance before going in, Ray was seen on cctv to angrily kick Mr Brockbanks.

He then took his key entry card and led the way to his fourth-floor flat, thrusting the door open on arrival.

Although what went on in the next 36 minutes was only witnessed by Ray and the deceased, evidence found on the defendant’s phone showed him filming himself as he scrolled through messages on Mr Brockbanks’ phone.

The scrolling stopped at 4.17am and the prosecution said that by the time the defendant was captured on cctv leaving the flat, little more than three minutes later, he had fatally attacked Mr Brockbanks and replaced the knife in the communal kitchen.

It was the prosecution’s case that he stabbed Mr Brockbanks on the bed, through the duvet he was lying under.

Read more: Closing speeches in trial of man accused of Jason Brockbanks' murder

The court heard Mr Brockbanks died from a stab wound to the right side of his torso, just above the hip line, which pierced his intestinal cavity and severed vessels, causing an ultimate fatal blood loss.

But the jury was told that he may not have died for more than an hour after the wound was inflicted and he could possibly have been saved with prompt treatment in the immediate aftermath of the stabbing.

It was only on the afternoon of Tuesday September 27 that a welfare check was made at Mr Brockbanks’ room after concern was raised by his family who had not heard from him for several days.

A staff member at Mansion Tyne, who had signed him into the complex ten days earlier, found his blood-stained body, slumped in the shower cubicle, in the en-suite bathroom.

Ray was subsequently arrested at his family home in Mayfield Road, South Hylton, Sunderland, in the early hours of Wednesday September 28, and claimed to have been unaware that Mr Brockbanks was dead.

But, during the trial, the jury heard from former lovers of Ray who said he also checked their phones for any sign of inter-action with other men, reacting with angry outbursts if anything was found.

Following today’s guilty verdict, prosecuting counsel David Lamb KC said it was likely that Mr Brockbanks’ parents and grandparents would like to be present at the sentencing hearing and may want to make victim personal statements for the court.

He said they had been present throughout the trial.

Defence counsel, Toby Hedworth KC, said a psychiatric report on the defendant, already prepared prior to the trial, would be made available to the sentencing hearing.

Read next:

               Man in court for Jason Brockbank's murder accused of lying

               Aaron Ray police interview during trial for murder of Jason Brockbanks

               Accused in Newcastle student murder was making plans to go to Russia

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Thanking the jury for its assistance during the case, the trial judge, Mr Justice Martin Spencer said by law the only sentence would be one of life imprisonment.

The only question would be how long Ray must serve before being eligible for consideration for licence release by the Parole Board, a figure he would recommend at the sentencing hearing.

Adjourning to return to court to pass sentence, on Thursday (March 23), he remanded the defendant to remain in custody.