Three men were convicted today of murdering a Worcestershire sub-postmaster who was gunned down as he tried to protect his parents during an armed robbery at their family-run village store.
Craig Hodson-Walker, 29, was shot through the heart as he tried to fend off a masked gang at the post office and general stores in Fairfield, near Bromsgrove, in January.
His father Ken was also shot during the raid - sustaining a bullet wound to his left shin.
Following a ten-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court a jury found Christopher Morrissey, 32, Elmay Road, Sheldon, his brother Declan Morrissey, 34, of Shirley Park Road, Shirley, and Anselm Ribera, 34, of Topfield House, Druids Heath, guilty of murder.
They were also convicted of attempting to murder Ken Hodson-Walker.
A fourth defendant, Adrian Snape, was cleared of both charges.
Snape, of Camelot Way, Small Heath, had already pleaded guilty to attempted robbery, admitting he was the getaway driver.
After he was cleared of murder, he leapt up in the dock and shouted repeatedly: "It told you. I f****** told you, didn't I?"
He was then removed by security staff while the jurors, some of whom were visibly upset by his outburst, were told to leave the court.
The remaining three defendants were also convicted of possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life and attempted robbery.
All four men will be sentenced on Friday.
The gang - described by prosecutor Timothy Raggatt QC as a "close knit group" - struck at the store at 8.20am on January 9.
Snape waited outside the post office in a stolen getaway car while Ribera and the Morrissey brothers stormed the shop.
Ribera brandished an automatic pistol, which he cocked just seconds after entering, and the Morrisseys shared a sledgehammer.
The killers demanded cash and keys from Ken Hodson-Walker, 57, who was working behind the counter.
But Mr Raggatt told jurors the raid was "in vain" because the safe - which contained around £20,000 - was on a time lock and could not be opened before 9am.
Craig Hodson-Walker had rushed to his father's aid with a cricket bat, wearing just his boxer shorts. His mother Judy Hodson-Walker, 57, had tried to fight the robbers with a curtain pole.
Mrs Hodson-Walker broke down as she told jurors of her son's last moments.
Mrs Hodson-Walker, who smiled but remained silent as the verdicts were returned, told the court that she cradled her son as he lay on the floor in a grocery aisle after the killers fled.
She said her husband told her he was dead but she refused to believe the tragic truth, desperately trying to resuscitate him.
"He said 'he's gone' and I said 'he can't be gone, he's my son'," she said.
Jurors, who took just less than 10 hours to deliver their verdicts, watched CCTV footage of the raid.
The scenes showed Ribera and the Morrissey brothers entering the store as Ken Hodson-Walker served a local woman with a packet of cigarettes.
In a statement read to the court, Mr Hodson-Walker said he feared for his life as one of the Morrissey brothers demanded cash in a "threatening" and "evil" voice.
Craig Hodson-Walker's fiancee Lisa Bundy, 26, and his mother read victim impact statements to the judge, in which they both said they no longer live, but merely "exist".
Miss Bundy, dressed in black, said she and Mr Hodson-Walker had been eagerly planning their forthcoming wedding and were looking to move in together.
She described the moment in which she was told of his death as an "emotional bombshell". She said: "It was as if my whole world had collapsed and strangely enough, in hindsight, it has. It is funny how you go through life, sad things happen, and you get upset, but it is not until something as tragic as this happens that you finally realise what really being upset is.
"Every day I feel lonely, I have now lost the one person I felt closest to and the one person I need to hold my hand and tell me everything would be ok. It has left a huge gaping hole in my life."
Mrs Hodson-Walker described her son as a "bright" and "beautiful" person. She said: "Craig loves living and enjoys the simple things in life.
"Craig was more than a son, he was our friend.
"He was a great mediator, a listener, but most of all he was our rock.
"That rock now has been taken away from us and life will never be the same again."
She told the court her son was responsible for much of the technical side of the business, including choosing and buying the CCTV system that captured the moment of his death.
Mrs Hodson-Walker continued: "On Friday January 9, everything came to an end, all our hopes, dreams and visions for the future.
"Our lives will never be the same again as one part of our lives has gone forever."
She said actions of her son's killers, men she described as "dregs of the earth", had particularly affected her husband Ken, who has suffered health problems since.
"The mental torture exists in all of us but for these reasons it is different for Ken. Ken is not the same. He is a broken man who has developed epilepsy.
"I no longer live, I exist."
She added: "I am scared but if I stop I won't be able to carry on. I have had to endure living and working in a place where my son was so brutally shot, walking daily past the spot where I held him in my arms, dying, as his beautiful blue eyes slowly turned lifeless.
"Our lives have been destroyed by the mindless dregs. They have no thought but to take what was not theirs, materially but also emotionally.
"Craig's life was extinguished by men with no values and no sense of purpose other than to take what was not theirs.
"The biggest question I have is why did evil touch us that day? Evil has touched us but it will not destroy us. Our love for Craig will never diminish."
Speaking after the verdicts today, senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Jon Groves, from West Mercia Police, said the investigation was the largest of its kind the force had seen.
He said: "Our thoughts today are with the Hodson-Walker family and Craig's fiancee Lisa, who have been through a terrible ordeal.
"Although it can obviously never make up for their loss, we hope that they can take some measure of comfort from today's verdicts and begin to move on with their lives.
"This was a horrific crime of a nature rarely seen in West Mercia and the fact that we were able to arrest those responsible within four days of the raid shows how absolutely determined we were to bring Craig's killers to justice."
Mr Groves said the discovery of the Volkswagen Golf used by the gang - found abandoned in the Fairfield area - and the fact it had been stolen at Knowle in the West Midlands last New Year's Eve, added a "new dimension" to the investigation.
He said two days after the raid, the investigation began to focus on the four men who were subsequently arrested on January 13, then charged on January 16.
He said the huge operation involved 46 separate forensic scenes, ranging from the Post office and suspects' addresses, and the getaway car, while 4,300 exhibits were seized.
During house-to-house inquiries in 13 different areas, 2,319 homes were visited and officers spoke to more than 6,000 people, he said.
He said CCTV footage and media appeals had played a part in bringing witnesses forward, added: "This has been a painstaking investigation and in order to prove the association between the defendants and their link with the shocking events at Fairfield that day, we have quite literally left no stone unturned and where necessary have sought expert advice.
"In short we have done everything possible to secure justice for the family of Craig Hodson-Walker and his fiancee Lisa Bundy.
"It is a case that has touched all the police officers and staff working on it and we have all been impressed by the dignity, spirit and resilience shown by the Hodson-Walker family and the community at Fairfield who rallied round to help them."
Mr Groves described the attack on the Post Office as "absolutely ruthless", adding: "In 30 years I have never seen anything like it, and of course callous disregard for life."
The court today heard all four men had a string of previous convictions, dating back to the 1990s.
The Morrissey brothers and Ribera had also previously been found guilty of armed attacks on Post Offices.
In a statement issued after the verdicts today, Post Office Ltd welcomed the convictions and said they would do everything to support the family.
Paula Vennells, the Post Office's network director, said: "We would like to pay tribute to the family for the dignity and courage they have shown following the tragic events in January this year and the determination they have shown in carrying on with their lives.
"We also want to acknowledge the support the Fairfield community has given to everyone affected by the robbery, both emotionally and practically in helping to keep the business serving the community whilst the family try to come to terms with their terrible loss.
"The outcome of this trial sends a clear message to those who seek to threaten the security of hardworking people in Post Office branches who serve their communities - they will be brought to account and their actions subject to the justice of the courts."