'I love you, being stabbed': slain worker's text to mum

A young man is facing at least two decades in prison after being found guilty of stabbing a Darwin bottle shop worker to death.

Declan Laverty, 20, was on shift at a BWS near Darwin airport on March 19, 2023, when he was fatally stabbed in the chest by then-19-year-old Keith Kerinauia.

Kerinauia's lawyers had argued their client, now aged 20, acted in self-defence.

On Thursday, a Northern Territory Supreme Court jury took just five hours to find him guilty of murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence and a non-parole period of 20 years.

The BWS bottle shop (file image)
Bottle shop worker Declan Laverty was stabbed to death in March 2023. (Annette Lin/AAP PHOTOS)

Relatives of both men both screamed when the verdict was delivered - one with relief, the other with anger.

Mr Laverty's mother Samara broke into tears before being consoled by her sister-in-law and daughter.

The heartbreak of Kerinauia's family was palpable before their distress caused security to lock down the Supreme Court.

One family member drove erratically across the Darwin courthouse's lawns, while another yelled "you racist mother****ers".

The same woman said the courts had locked up a "gentle giant" and there was "no justice for him or Kumanjayi Walker", referring to the Indigenous teenager fatally shot by an NT Police officer in November 2019 during an attempted arrest.

The Supreme Court of the Northern Territory (file image)
An angry relative of Keith Kerinauia drove across the Supreme Court's lawns. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

However, Ms Laverty said her family had received justice.

"He was just a 20-year-old kid at work and for that he died. So now we've got justice," Samara Laverty told reporters.

"The brutality of what he went through that night. The size of the fatal wound … I needed to know that he didn't suffer.

"But listening to that last triple-zero call not only did he suffer, but he died an agonising death. And I'm so glad the jury could see that."

The 10-day trial was told the two men got into a verbal altercation before Kerinauia left the bottle shop in Darwin's northern suburbs and returned with a knife.

In CCTV footage shown to the court, Mr Laverty can be seen lunging at Kerinauia with a knife, which his mother had told him to "carry for protection".

Kerinauia then fatally stabbed Mr Laverty in the chest.

He died in the back room at his work shortly after 9pm, texting his mother one last time: "I love you, being stabbed".

Defence lawyer Jon Tippett KC said he respected the jury's verdict but did not rule out an appeal.

The high-profile case has been the catalyst for several changes to alcohol sale and weapons offences laws in the Northern Territory.

Kerinauia will appear in court again for sentencing on June 28.