VICIOUS killer Steven Green kicked and punched his neighbour to death - simply for smirking at him.
Green is facing life behind bars today after he was convicted of murdering former engineer Ronald Harding - a man police said was “a respectable and respected member of society”.
The 38-year-old had admitted beating Mr Harding to death - but claimed the horrifying crime was manslaughter, not murder, because he had been tipped over the edge by the ‘smirk’ on his 62-year-old neighbour’s face.
Jurors at Sheffield Crown Court took less than an hour to convict him of murder.
Green claimed he was provoked into violence after Mr Harding ‘embarrassed’ him in The Royal pub in Woodhouse, by letting slip to one of the barmaids that he fancied her.
When the pair got back to the flats they shared in Skelton Way, Woodhouse, a fight broke out on the second floor landing. Green smashed in Mr Harding’s door with a vacuum cleaner before kicking and punching him “bloody and senseless”.
Then he dragged Mr Harding - who had suffered three skull fractures, broken ribs and a brain haemorrhage - back into his own flat to die, before returning to the landing to clean blood from the stairs.
Green sat impassively, staring ahead, as the guilty verdict was returned. He is facing a mandatory life term and will be sentenced next week.
Today Mr Harding’s relatives said their loss, in such violent circumstances, had “totally devastated” the family.
“Our brother is dead, he won’t come back,” his siblings said in a statement. “We can only say it gives us a certain peace of mind to know the man who killed him will receive the punishment he deserves.”
South Yorkshire Police Det Supt James Abdy added: “This was a particularly brutal and sustained attack on an innocent man.
“Steven Green appears to have had a grievance with society as a whole and vented his anger on Mr Harding, who was unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Jurors rejected Green’s claim that he hadn’t intended to hurt Mr Harding seriously and rejected his admission of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
Green, who declined to give evidence in his defence, waited four hours before ringing 999 after the attack on Nov 5.
An acquaintance who found him cleaning blood from the stairs was warned: “Mention any word of this and I’m going to kill you.”
Green admitted he hit his neighbour “no end of times”.
He told police: “He just made me so mad. I was just enraged. I wish I had just had an argument - I wish to God I had just left it like that.
“I knew I had gone too far. When I came to my senses the more I started to care, and I realised the severity of what I had done. He didn’t deserve a beating like that.”
Green suffers recurrent depressive disorder and had a “traumatic and difficult childhood”. He had been ill and suicidal before the murder.
Michael Hubbard QC, defending, said Green had not used a weapon and his illness was a mitigating feature.
Mr Harding’s family said: “Green must now realise he and he alone is responsible for what he did.”
The judge, Mr Justice Andrew Smith, said the minimum term Green will spend behind bars is 15 years. He adjourned the case to consider sentence.