A MAN accused of murdering boxer Mark Denton in an axe attack apologised in court to his parents for his death.
Anthony Middleton said he was “sorry” for what happened at the fateful house party on New Year’s Eve where the popular 31-year-old was the victim of a brutal attack.
Middleton dramatically changed his story when he gave evidence in the trial at Teesside Crown Court.
After confessing to police he was responsible for Mark’s death after striking him numerous times with an axe, he yesterday said he had lied to protect his brother David Sowerby.
Prosecutor Jamie Hill QC said to Middleton: “Could you explain to Mark Denton’s parents why their son is dead?”
Middleton said: “I don’t know. I wish it never happened, I’m sorry. But I couldn’t stop it. It was unavoidable.”
Mr Hill added: “You and your brother just executed him didn’t you?”
Middleton said: “No.”
Mark’s parents Ann and Brian, together with his brother Craig, listened to Middleton’s evidence from the public gallery just a few feet away.
The court previously heard how Middleton told police on January 2 after he had been arrested that he acted in self defence after alleging Mark tried to stab him with a foot-long bread knife.
But giving evidence yesterday he claimed he had lied to prevent his half brother and co-accused David Sowerby from going to jail.
When asked by his defending barrister Tim Roberts QC to explain his confession, Middleton said: “I had a story in my head I was going to take the blame for my brother.
“I didn’t want him to go to jail. I was just thinking about his kids, my nephews.”
Middleton told the jury there was no truth in his previous claim to police that Mark had attacked him with a breadknife and he picked up an axe and hit Mark with it.
He also said he lied to police about the jacket he was wearing to put himself in Sowerby’s position.
Middleton told the court a “scuffle” broke out at the party between Sowerby, 24, and Mark Denton, who he said he did not know or recognise.
“They were wrestling with the axe trying to get control of it.”
He said numerous witness accounts that Middleton attacked Mark in the back after picking up or being passed the axe were “all lies.”
He also denied saying “we done him there” to Sowerby when they were being driven back to Middleton’s flat afterwards.
Middleton admitted washing his clothes and burning Sowerby’s blood-stained clothes.
He said he threw the Sabre Cut camping axe on to a railway line at the back of his flat in Bruntoft Avenue.
Mr Roberts said: “Did you at any stage strike Mark Denton in that party room with an axe?”
Middleton replied: “No, at no stage.”
Mr Roberts added: “Did you at any stage agree with your brother to launch a joint attack on Mark Denton?”
Middleton said: “I didn’t know Mark Denton and I wouldn’t do anything like that anyway.”
Middleton said he had planned to stay in on New Year’s Eve night and play poker on the internet after earlier buying a motorbike from Jamie Gascoigne.
But he said Sowerby and Mr Gascoigne heard about the party in Hutton Avenue and Middleton did not want Sowerby to go without him as he was in a drunken state.
He had downed around a dozen shots earlier that afternoon in a town centre pub.
Middleton said Mr Gascoigne took the axe to the party to show the host Dean Shadforth who is a tree surgeon.
He told the jury he put the axe down the side of a two-seater sofa in the party room after he saw someone playing with it.
Middleton, of Bruntoft Avenue, and Sowerby, of Allerton Close, both Hartlepool, deny murder.
Sowerby is due to give evidence today (Thursday).
The trial continues.