A man who murdered his girlfriend in a frenzied knife attack will now have to face the consequences of his horrific actions, detectives have said.
Keith Rizzo, 23, killed Aberdeen woman Neomi Smith by stabbing and choking her in her flat in Brechin on June 9 last year.
After yesterday’s guilty verdict at the High Court in Glasgow, Detective Inspector Ross Fitzgerald spoke of the agony Ms Smith’s family had been put through.
He said: “Our thoughts are still very much with Neomi’s family and friends during what is a really difficult time for them.
“The loss of their daughter, sister and friend has been agonising for them.
“This conviction will not in any way compensate for their loss, but Rizzo will now have to face the consequences for his horrific actions.”
During a 10-day trial the jury heard the farm worker had flown into a jealous rage after watching his 23-year-old partner dance with other men in local bar Hudsons.
The pair argued and, after she returned home to her Swan Street flat, Rizzo kicked down the front door before launching the vicious assault in her kitchen.
He stabbed her a total of 32 times with two knives. He also repeatedly hit and strangled the care worker with so much force it caused small fractures to the bones in her neck.
Ms Smith’s family members cried and shouted from the public gallery as the verdict was delivered yesterday.
Her father John Smith was heard to shout “I hope you rot in hell” as Rizzo, who did not react to the verdict, sat in the dock.
It took the jury – made up of 10 men and five women – just over an hour and a half to find him guilty.
The trial heard from witnesses who told how Rizzo had made contrasting claims as to what happened on the night of the murder.
In what prosecutor Duncan McPhie described as “far-fetched” and “entirely inconsistent” accounts, Rizzo had told his mother several weeks after his arrest that he found two men in black inside the property when he entered.
He claimed the men said his girlfriend owed them money and took turns stabbing her before forcing him to place his hands in her blood and handle the knives.
They then reportedly told Rizzo “this is what happens to people who don’t pay us what they owe us” before forcing him in the shower and adding “this isn’t the first time we’ve done this”.
Rizzo had earlier told police just hours after his arrest he saw a suspicious figure in the alley and heard a man arguing with Ms Smith while he was in the shower.
However, he failed to make any mention of the two mystery killers at the time – despite being interviewed for more than three hours.
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Taking to the stand near the beginning of the trial, downstairs neighbour Stephen Alexander, 59, said he heard several “disturbing” thuds like someone was “hitting the floor with a hammer” just after midnight on the night of the murder.
Shortly after, Rizzo appeared at his door “panicked” and begged him to help his girlfriend, who Mr Alexander found covered in blood and unresponsive on the kitchen floor.
He described the sight of her body next to smashed glass and food as like a “scene of carnage” and said he tried in vain to revive her.
First responder Angela McKenzie told the court she arrived at the scene to see two police officers performing CPR and holding a towel to large wounds to Ms Smith’s neck. She compared the aftermath of the murder to a horror movie.
Police told how Rizzo, who was sitting in a patrol car outside the flat with his head in his hands, “lashed out” after being told he was under arrest on suspicion of murder.
He repeatedly asked “why would I kill my girlfriend?” before several hours later telling detectives he discovered her body in the kitchen after hearing her arguing with someone.
A forensic scientist found 16 injuries on Rizzo including large scratches to his lower back and a cut to his finger.
DNA from blood matching Rizzo was found on the handles of the knives used as well as throughout the property.
Jurors also unanimously found Rizzo guilty of assaulting Ms Smith sometime between May 9 and May 30 last year at her flat by throwing a mobile phone at her, punching her and pushing her against a wall.
Jurors again unanimously found him guilty of acting in a threatening or abusive manner by pushing a table and breaking a glass at Hudsons Bar just hours before the murder.
Sentencing will take place next month and Lady Rae described the crime as a “brutal murder of a young woman in the prime of her life”.
The Crown dropped seven charges relating to allegations that Rizzo assaulted three former partners between 2014 and 2019 at the close of its case.