Jury sent out in Hatton murder trial

Jack Merrilees
Jack Merrilees

The jury in the Hatton Park murder trial have been sent out to consider a verdict after hearing four days of evidence.

Jack Merrilees, 21, of Linkway pleaded not guilty to murdering his stepfather, Edward Cornet following an argument at his mother’s Blackwell Lane home in May last year.

The 55-year-old was stabbed three times in the chest and died from his injuries after the incident in the garden of his home on May 2, 2015.

The prosecution’s case is that Merrilees was acting in a state of uncontrolled anger and intended to seriously harm his step-father.

The defence argued that the defendant feared for his life and acted instinctively to protect his mother and girlfriend - with no premeditation to kill.

During the trial at Warwick Crown Court, the jury heard the defendant and his girlfriend were at the home his mother, Stephanie shared with her partner, Mr Cornet.

Kate Brunner QC, prosecuting, said: “We know from a neighbour that it sounded as though they were having some kind of a party that night. There was singing and a computer was being used to watch music videos until around 11pm.

“It was then that a fierce argument broke out, so fierce that parts of it were heard by neighbours.”

One neighbour, said he was watching television when he heard an argument break out between Mr Cornet, and a younger man who emotionally said: “Get off my mum or I’ll knife you.”

Another said she also heard an argument and a voice saying: “I’m going to kill you,” as his mother told him to stop.

Merrilees ran from the house after stabbing his mother’s partner, but then returned and spoke to the police and paramedics who had been called by his girlfriend Rebecca Beveridge.

The victim had three knife wounds to his chest - one which went as deep as 6cm - inflicted with the small kitchen knife recovered from the flower bed. He went into cardiac arrest in the ambulance and was declared dead in the early hours of the morning.

Defending Merrilees’ actions as a desperate attempt to protect his family from a violent man, Jane Bickerstaff QC, defending outlined almost 39 years of violence from Mr Cornet who has previous convictions for carrying a weapon and for GBH and assault.

The court heard that in 2011 he attacked Stephanie and made threats to kill her children; that in January 2013 Merrilees returned home from work to find his mother being strangled by Mr Cornet; and multiple occasions where had attacked the defendant and others, not stopping until he was removed by police.

Ms Bickerstaff said the four had been watching music videos when Mr Cornet - who had been drinking - became enraged at an image of a man on Facebook who had not bought the victim a drink on New Year’s Eve.

She told the court that he shouted to Merriees: “get that c*** off my TV. If he ever saw him again I will kill hill him with my bare hands.”

Merrilees, panicked and frantically tried to remove the image, but when it reappeared, Mr Cornet leapt across the room and began to strangle the defendant. After his mother helped free him, the three ran to leave and the defendant grabbed a small knife on his way out the back door.

He returned when he realised his mother and girlfriend, Becky were not behind him and heard them shout as they were being confronted by Mr Cornet.

She also said that the defendant acted through “fear for his life” and that the attack would not have happened if Mr Cornet had not followed them to ‘continue the violence’ - a clear indication of the attack being in self defence.

Tearfully giving evidence, Merrilees was described his mother’s partner as violent and unstoppable when drunk, telling the court how he had been terrified of him and what he would do on several occasions.

Summing up for the jury, Judge Richard Griffith-Jones said they key to the deliberations ahead of them was to establish if Mr Cornet had been stabbed out of fear and instinct in self defence, or with a calculated intent to cause serious harm.

He said they should consider the good character of the defendant, and the history of violence of Mr Cornet - but that neither of these points would lead them to establish the events on that night.

He also said that members should consider that no paramedics or police officers described the defendant as being drunk or unable to understand the situation at the time, despite being very visibly emotional and upset by what had happened.

He said: “You will begin your deliberations this afternoon and you must make a judgement on the facts you have heard.”