Hartlepool man denies murdering dad who was stabbed five times in the streets
A Hartlepool man jointly accused of murder has denied stabbing the victim - but admitted knocking him unconscious in a street fight a week earlier.
Amateur boxer Darren Willans, 31, is on trial at Teesside Crown Court for the murder of Peter Gilling on September 29 last year.
Mr Gilling, 39, died after he was found with serious injuries outside Melsonby Court flats in Billingham.
Willans, who is jointly charged with 36-year-old Derek Pallas, took the stand at Teesside Crown Court this morning.
He told the jury he had known Mr Gilling for about eight years, although they had not been close friends.
Asked by his barrister Richard Wright QC, “Have you ever been violent towards him?” he replied “Once. I punched him.”
He said a row had broken out between himself and Mr Gilling, who he believed had been responsible for burgling his sister’s shed, on September 21 last year.
Asked who threw the first punch, he replied: ”He did it, but I slipped out of the way and caught him.”
He had knocked Mr Gilling unconscious, then left after telling a passer-by to call an ambulance, the court heard.
The pair had bumped into each other a couple of days later, with Willans adding: “He was alright. I shook his hand and everything was good.
“He had got what he deserved and then it was left.”
Asked whether he had heard rumours that Mr Gilling had been claiming to have beaten him in the fight, he said he had, but it had not bothered him: “It was typical Peter.”
He and Pallas had gone to Melsonby Court twice on the night Mr Gilling died, to buy drugs to sell on.
He denied carrying a knife and said: “I hate them - I hate knives. It is cowardly.”
Willans said Derek Pallas had shown him he was carrying a knife while they were in the flat.
“He lifted his top up, showing off. I told him to put it away where he got it from.”
As they were leaving the flats, Peter Gilling arrived on his bike: “He got off his bike and came at me with his hands up,” said Willans.
He had punched Mr Gilling in the face, who had then produced a Stanley knife.
Willans said he had punched Mr Gilling again, knocking him to the floor, then jogged across the road and started walking back to the car.
He was not sure where Derek Pallas had been but he had not seen him attack Mr Gilling: “I would have told the police if I had seen it,” he said.
“If I had seen it, I would not have let it happen.”
Asked if had been aware Mr Gilling had been stabbed, he replied: “I did not have a clue.
“I would not have left the lad.”
Jamie Hill QC, for Pallas, said Willans had claimed Pallas had confessed to him, and asked “Why did you not put that in your own defence statement in January?”, he replied “I don’t know.”
Mr Hill said various people had come forward to support to support Willan’s account: “These people coming forward - this is all part of a conspiracy by your brother and friends on the outside, isn’t it?
“When you started by telling the police on your arrest that Derek had done this, ever since then there had been a huge effort to get you out of this.”
Willans replied: “You are wrong. I don’t deserve this.”
A phone Pallas had taken from Willans contained a text with a price list for a range of drugs, said Mr Hill.
“You guys were dealing drugs in Stockton and moving into Billingham,” he said.
“You can’t go round ‘taxing’ other drug dealers just with your fists, can you?”
Mr Hill asked Willans: “Has Derek Pallas been offered money in prison? Has he been offered drugs, particularly Spice?”
Willans replied: “If he had been offered Spice, he would take it.”
Mr Hill asked: “Have you threatened to have him done in in prison?” to which Willans replied: “No, if he had been threatened, he would be in protection.”
David Brooke, prosecuting, said Willans had specifically denied seeing Mr Gillings with a knife in his original statement: “Can you explain why that is so very different?” he asked, to which Willans replied: “Because it is all coming back to me.”
Mr Brooke said evidence from Liam Laverick, which had driven Willans and Pallas to and from the scene, meant there were only two possibilities: “Either you had the knife and stabbed a man to death,” to which Wallins replied: “No chance I have never picked a knife up.”
“The other possibility is that you were holding Peter Gilling while he was stabbed to death,” said Mr Brooke.