A man accused of murdering a 79-year-old widow told a jury he spent the night of her death dealing drugs from his parents’ garage in the same street.
Gareth Dack is accused of murdering Norma Bell and setting fire to her home in Westbourne Road, in Hartlepool.
A jury at Teesside Crown Court heard Dack’s parents live in the same street, which is not far from where Dack was living at the time with his girlfriend in Windermere Road.
“I had had an argument with my girlfriend,” said Dack. “So I told her I would pack a bag and give us both some time.
“I went to my parents’ house, but they weren’t in so I got into their garage by climbing through the back way.
“Once inside, I put up a deck chair and chilled.”
The jury heard Dack was short of money, and needed cash to pay household bills and pay for his regular use of cocaine.
“I decided to get some cocaine to sell to make some money,” he said. “So I went down to the Oxford Road area to get some.
“I got about £300 worth on credit, it’s quite common for the dealers to do that when they have a lot because they want rid of it.
“I’m not prepared to say who I got the cocaine from.
“Then I went back to the garage to set about bulking it out for sale, I reckoned to be able to double my money.”
Dack told the court ‘word got about’ he had cocaine to sell, and several people came to the garage or the top of the street to buy some, including two people he met walking back to the garage.
He spent the night there, sleeping occasionally before being woken just after 8.30am by the sound of fire engines racing to the fire at Mrs Bell’s home.
The jury heard a witness who saw Dack in the street that morning described him as looking tired, sweaty, and as if he had run a marathon.
Dack said he had taken cocaine which made him sweat.
The court heard earlier someone called the soft porn television channel Babestation from Norma Bell’s telephone on the night she was killed.
Dack said he had not called Babestation that evening.
The court heard a mobile telephone belonging to Mrs Bell was found in Dack’s parents’ garage.
“I asked Norma if I could borrow a charger,” said Dack. “I needed one because I’d left my charger in my house after falling out with my girlfriend.
“Norma had some chargers, but none would fit so she lent me a mobile phone she had.”
Also in the garage was a piece of paper with the telephone number of Mrs Bell’s hairdresser on it.
“That must have been in the bag she gave me the mobile phone in,” said Dack.
Christopher Tehrani QC, cross-examining Dack, said: “You refused to answer all questions put to you by police, including whether you knew Mrs Bell, or had ever been to her address.
“Having now heard the prosecution case, you are tailoring your answers to dismiss it.”
Dack said he had made no comment in interview due to legal advice.
He added: “The police came to my house in the early hours and arrested me.
“My children had to go to their grandparents in what they are wearing because none of us were allowed to take any clothes.
“Cleveland Police are corrupt, you only have to look at the news to know that.
“There was no way I was going to help them after what they did to my family.”
Dack, 33, of Windermere Road, Hartlepool, denies murder and arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered.
Father-of-four Dack, 33, denies using a cable to strangle 79-year-old Norma Bell, whose body was found in her burning home in Hartlepool in April last year.
Mrs Bell and her late husband John had looked after more than 50 children.
They had nine children.
The case continues.