A TEENAGER who copied hit drama Breaking Bad by trying to destroy a dad-of-five's body with acid after stabbing him in the head has been convicted of murder.
George Knights told a court he took inspiration from the US crime series after plunging his dad's Royal Marine commando dagger 16cm-deep into Stephen Chapman's skull.
Having recalled an episode from season one, the 19-year-old then set about stealing a neighbour's plastic wheelie bin to dump the lifeless Mr Chapman in and douse him in six bottles of high sulphuric concentrate drain cleaner.
In further similarities to the award-winning show, a jury heard Knights had the ready-supply of acid from his attempts at manufacturing amphetamine at his home in Rochester, Kent.
He also used the name of lead character Walter White – who made crystal methamphetamine – as his password reminder for an online DVLA account.
Maidstone Crown Court in Kent was told the well-spoken teenager's life was "stranger than fiction", and a judge described the killing and its background as "extremely disturbing".
Knights, a keen bodybuilder and cage fighting fan who had a dagger entwined with a snake tattooed on his neck just days before the killing, denied murdering 38-year-old Mr Chapman on October 23 last year.
The dad-of-five's decomposing body was left in the bin in the teenager's conservatory while he went out partying through the night with friends, bingeing on drugs and alcohol.
Mr Chapman was found two days later, still with the double-edged military dagger in his head, after his desperate family had broken into Knights' home.
During their desperate attempts to find him, the teenager had repeatedly lied to both police and Mr Chapman's pregnant girlfriend about his "disappearance".
The court heard the pair had met up at Knights' home at 8.40pm so the then 18-year-old could buy £2,500 of cocaine from Mr Chapman, who was known as "Ginger".
Within minutes, Knights killed the forklift driver and then set about trying to destroy his body.
But he claimed he had acted in self-defence when he stabbed the drug dealer during a struggle on his living room floor.
He told the court he believed his life and his family were in danger from Mr Chapman and his criminal "associates".
But Knights was found guilty after prosecutor Caroline Carberry QC told the court the murder had been part of a premeditated plan to "rob, hurt or even kill" Mr Chapman at a time when the teenager was leading a "bizarre, out of control existence".
The trial heard of what was described as other "extremely worrying behaviour" in the weeks leading up to the fatal stabbing.
His father Edward was said to be "frustrated and at his wits' end" with his son, resulting in him refusing to give Knights any more money, cancelling his credit card, and threatening to evict him if he did not change his lifestyle.
In a series of angry messages between the pair, Mr Knights described the teenager as "a reckless wildman".
He even warned: "You will look back one day and realise how out of control you really were."
This was a young man who inhabited a universe where he had set up his own amphetamine production at home, where a plan to hurt, to rob and, the prosecution say, to kill came, worryingly, very easily to him.
His former girlfriend also recalled finding sulphuric acid in his fridge, and described him as being "fascinated" with knives.
Just hours before the murder, the teenager had written a list headed "Knife" and comprising words such as "Superglue", "mask" and "wipes".
The court heard the password "memorable name" reminder of Walter White – who a well-spoken Knights denied in court was his "hero" – was found in on his iPhone after police managed to hack the device just a month before the trial.
Officers also discovered photos of Mr Chapman's body in the bin, his feet holding the lid ajar, and a video filmed at one of two parties he attended after the killing in which he boasted: "I'll play this to all my new friends in jail."
The teenager also tested positive on his arrest for a staggering 13 drugs -including ecstasy, amphetamine, cocaine, prescription medication Zanax and diazepam, and a cocktail of steroids.
Ms Carberry told the jury: "George Knights's behaviour throughout 2020 was stranger than fiction.
"This was a young man who inhabited a universe where he had set up his own amphetamine production at home, where a plan to hurt, to rob and, the prosecution say, to kill came, worryingly, very easily to him. This was no fantasy world.
"George Knights was living a life where his primary focus was on taking drugs, making drugs and selling drugs. He also had an unhealthy fascination with knives.
"The robbery of Stephen Chapman was for drugs and in the course of that he killed Mr Chapman.
"This was just part of the very bizarre existence George Knights had carved out for himself at that time."
Of the murder itself, she said Mr Chapman had been "helpless in defending himself against a very strong young man armed with a lethal weapon".
Ms Carberry added that the severe force used to inflict the fatal head wound was 'out of all proportion' to any threat posed by Mr Chapman and "an act of murder".
"The defendant, aged only 18, a bodybuilder, a drug dealer with a history of steroid and other illegal and prescription drugs use, someone with a recent and relevant history of bizarre behaviour, was the aggressor," the prosecutor told the court.
The acid-doused body of Mr Chapman posed such a risk when found that firefighters were needed to transport him, still in the bin, to the mortuary at nearby Medway Maritime Hospital, the jury heard.
Furthermore, the post-mortem examination could not be completed despite staff wearing full PPE clothing, including heavy-duty gloves, a respirator and gas mask.
In a sad twist of fate, Mr Chapman's girlfriend Rebecca Leader gave birth to their third child – his fifth – on the first day of Knights's trial.
Knights, who faces life imprisonment, showed no reaction to the verdict which came after almost six hours' jury deliberation.
He was told by Judge Philip Statman that as well as a probation report assessing any danger he poses, a psychiatric report would be needed too.
"By reason of what I have heard and the nature of what has occurred in this case, I'm absolutely certain the court requires a psychiatric report as well," said the judge.
"I find this case extremely disturbing. In my judgement, I have grave concerns about the level of danger that you pose to the community."
Sentencing will take place in September, but no date was set.
Knights was remanded in custody.
Giving evidence at his trial Knights, who had left school before taking his GCSEs but spoke of wanting to become a "self-employed stocks and shares trader", said he believed the only way he could "get rid of" Mr Chapman was to copy the hit Netflix series.
He told the jury: "I watched Breaking Bad and in my madness at that point I thought that the only way I could get rid of him was to do what they did in that film. It was the only thing I could think of.
"I looked up on my computer what acid it was and it was sulphuric acid, which is what I had used in an attempt to make amphetamine, and what kind of plastic you have to put it in.
"The wheelie bin was the right plastic. I got the wheelie bin from down the road. I don't know what I was thinking at this point. My mind was just everywhere. I brought it back to the house and put it in the conservatory.
"I put it on its side in the kitchen. Then I pushed and pulled Ginger into the wheelie bin. While I was doing that his shoes came off. That's why he wasn't wearing any.
"Obviously I wasn't thinking straight at all. I didn't put a gas mask on or anything like that. I got acid which was already in the house and poured it on top in the bin until I couldn't breathe anymore.
"Then I shut the conservatory doors and I left. I think I went upstairs and I was just crying.
"I shouldn't have done what I did but I wasn't thinking rationally at that point in time. I wish I had called the police, but at that moment in time I decided to put my family first."
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