TWO brothers would be guilty of murdering Hartlepool boxer Mark Denton if they had a ‘joint plan’ for a fateful axe attack, a judge said.
The jury at Teesside Crown Court were told they do not need to decide if Anthony Middleton or half brother David Sowerby struck the fatal blow to convict them both of murder.
Trial judge, The Honourable Mr Justice Green, summed up the case to the jury today.
The jury is now expected to retire on Tuesday afternoon to decide a verdict.
Prosecutors claim Sowerby, 24, and Middleton, 21, both attacked Mark with an axe without provocation at a New Year’s Eve party in Hutton Avenue, Hartlepool.
The former boxer died from massive blood loss after he suffered more than 50 separate injuries including 17 from an axe. The fatal wound was a large cut to his upper left arm which severed an artery.
Mr Justice Green said there was a “substantial clash” between what prosecution witnesses said they saw of the attack and of the defendants’ accounts.
The prosecution say Sowerby struck the first blow with the axe and Middleton joined in, landing numerous blows with the weapon in Mark’s back.
Sowerby claims he was too intoxicated from drink or drugs to intend to seriously hurt Mark and is also claiming self defence.
He says Mark punched him and he picked up the axe off the floor.
Middleton denies even holding the axe and says he only punched Mark a few times to his body.
Mr Justice Green told the jury: “You will have to form the view as to who to believe and who you disbelieve.”
Referring to the issue of joint responsibility, the judge added: “If you are not sure which of the two defendants inflicted the fatal blow you may still conclude both are guilty of murder if you are sure they are jointly responsible for Mark Denton’s death.
“If they are in it together as part of a joint plan or agreement to commit the crime then they are both guilty of the offence.”
He said such an agreement could arise suddenly on the spur of the moment.
Mr Justice Green said if the jury found Sowerby did not have the intent to do Mark really serious harm he would be not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.
He said Sowerby’s claim of self defence would fail if the jury decided the level of force he used was not reasonable.
Mr Justice Green said if the jury accepted Middleton’s version of events he would not be guilty of murder or manslaughter.
Middleton, of Bruntoft Avenue, and Sowerby, of Allerton Close, Hartlepool, both deny murder.
The trial continues.