A DRUG dealer has been found guilty of murdering a young father in a flat in Braintree.

Luke Eva killed drugs rival Michael Haastrup, 24, by stabbing him in the heart and left thigh at a flat in Cressing Road, on April 16 last year.

The jury at Chelmsford Crown Court took 16 hours and 33 minutes to reach a majority verdict of 10 to two.

Judge Charles Gratwicke thanked them for the care they had taken in their deliberations and excused them from jury service for the next ten years.

Addressing Eva, Judge Gratwicke said: “I say nothing at this stage other than this- you have been convicted by this jury of what can only be described as a vicious murder of a fellow drug dealer.

“I will save my sentencing remarks for later.

“But you will know that you might expect to receive a substantial custodial sentence.”

Det Chief Insp Mark Hall, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, led the investigation into Michael’s death. 

He explained that due to the ferocity of the attack the knife blade snapped and was left at the scene.

During a detailed search of a house in Braintree that Eva visited after the murder officers found blood stained clothing and crucially a protective case for a kitchen knife.

Forensic examination exactly matched the case to the knife broken blade found at the scene. This evidence proved Eva had taken a knife to the scene with him.

Speaking after the verdict, Mr Hall said: "I welcome this guilty verdict to give some peace to Michael’s family and friends. Michael was a young man who had just become a father.

His life was cut short by the actions of Luke Eva on that night in Braintree.

Both men were involved in a dispute over drugs which ended in a confrontation that had fatal consequences.

This case illustrates the deadly impact that drugs and knife crime can have on families, societies and the local community.”

Michael’s death devastated his family. In a statement issued shortly after he died, his family said: "Michael was a new father, a son, a brother and a good friend who had his whole life ahead of him. He had just got a new job and had a lovely new home with his partner and new son, Eli. 

"He was loved by many and helped people when he could. He used to bring in young homeless children to spend Christmas with his family to make them feel a part of this world again and bring hope into their lives.

"May his humble soul rest in peace."

The three week trial had heard that Eva and Haastrup were rivals and a brawl had erupted in the flat, which then spilled out into the street.

Eva, 24, of Avondale Drive, Leigh, admitted a charge of possession of an offensive weapon and also to stabbing Mr Haastrup, but argued he only did so in self defence.

Mr Haastrup’s family members sobbed as the verdict was read out, while some of Eva’s supporters stormed out of the courtroom.

One woman shouted “don’t laugh at me” in the direction of the victim’s family.

Eva, who remained impassive throughout, is due to be sentenced on Friday.

Braintree and Witham Times:


The jury hear harrowing evidence throught the three week trial.

Witnesses said they heard the victim repeating “please tell my son I love him” as he collapsed in the street on April 16 last year.

Mr Haastrup, of Southend, was rushed to Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, with an 8cm stab wound between two ribs.

He later died after suffering a cardiac arrest.

The court heard James McGowan, 25, and Mr Haastrup were at the flat to buy cannabis when Eva arrived, went into a bedroom with the flat’s occupant, Colin Cornelius, and emerged saying a deal had been done.

Eva, Mr Haastrup and Mr McGowan then fought, leaving Mr McGowan with a broken nose and a bloody jaw.

At one point, Mr McGowan claimed Eva was holding a knife in an “aggressive manner” while Mr Haastrup had a hammer in a “defensive position”.

Mr McGowan escaped from the flat and Mr Haastrup followed shortly afterwards, where he used a hammer to smash windows on Mr Cornelius’ car.

During the trial, neighbour Abigail Pollard said she called police after hearing a commotion and saw Mr Haastrup standing by the door of a flat shouting “you are going to die.”

Eva had admitted striking out at Mr Haastrup twice but said he did so because he was being attacked and did not know where he had struck him.

Witnesses said he was seen running from the scene but was arrested in Loughton the next day after dumping his mobile phone and clothes at his girlfriend's house in Springfields, Braintree.

The sheath matching one of the knives used in the attack was also found at the address.

He denied telling Mr Haastrup as he was lying on the ground “that’s what you get".

During the trial, Eva said he had been involved in drug dealing for about seven years, starting with cannabis then heroin and crack cocaine.

He had about 40 customers in Braintree and got into a turf dispute with Mr Haastrup, the trial heard.

Eva had bought a knife weeks before Mr Haastrup was killed because he heard people were not happy with his dealing, the court heard.

He had taken it to the flat because he had heard about threats against him, not because he was looking for trouble, he told the court.