Not guilty verdict in Hatton Park murder trial

Jack Merrilees
Jack Merrilees

A 21-year-old man has been found not guilty of murdering his mother’s partner after an eight-day trial at Warwick Crown Court.

Jack Merrilees of Linkway, Leamington, was declared not guilty after a unanimous vote by jurors on Wednesday afternoon.

Eddie Cornet,  Picture by Newsteam

Eddie Cornet, Picture by Newsteam

He was sobbing as he thanked the jury and left the Leamington court in tears. The jury came to the decision within hours after being sent out on Tuesday afternoon.

Edward Cornet was stabbed three times in the chest by Mr Merrilees following an argument at his mother’s Blackwell Lane home in May last year.

But after hearing that the young man had feared for his life, and for the safety of his mother and girlfriend, the defendant was found to have acted in self defence with no intent to kill the older man.

During the trial the court heard that the 55-year-old was stabbed three times in the chest and died from his injuries after the incident in the garden of his Hatton Park home on May 2, 2015.

Defending, Jane Bickerstaff QC, said Mr Cornet had a history of almost 39 years of violence whose previous convictions included for carrying a weapon, GBH and assault.

The court heard that in 2011 he attacked his partner, Stephanie Merrilees and made threats to kill her children and of multiple occasions where had attacked the defendant and others, not stopping until he was removed by police.

Speaking of the night in question, Ms Bickerstaff told the court 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 him a drink on New Year’s Eve.

She said he shouted to Mr Merrilees: “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” following several years of violence and fear.

Judge Richard Griffith-Jones told the jury 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.

The not guilty verdict was delivered in the afternoon on January 27.