Man pleads not guilty in murder trial

The scales of justice EMN-150515-184646001
The scales of justice EMN-150515-184646001

A Leamington man has pleaded not guilty to murder after a 55-year-old man was stabbed in Hatton Park last year.

Jack Merrilees, 21, allegedly stabbed his step-father, Edward Cornet after a fierce argument broke out between the pair at a party at the 55-year-old victim’s Warwick house in May 2015.

During the ongoing trial at Warwick Crown Court, prosecutor Kate Brunner QC said there was “no dispute” that Merrilees of Linkway, Leamington, inflicted the fatal wound - but that the question was if this was done to cause harm or in self-defence.

Talking about the night of the stabbing, she told the court that Mr Cornet and his partner Stephanie Merrilees were at their home in Blackwell Lane with her son- the defendant, and his girlfriend.

A 999 call was made at just after 11pm that night when paramedics arrived to find a man lying outside on the patio bleeding from wounds to his chest.

They also saw a “blood-smeared knife in the flower bed”.

Miss Brunner said: “There is no dispute that this defendant stabbed Edward Cornet with the knife found in the flower bed. It’s likely the issues will revolve around the circumstances of the stabbing, and whether Jack Merrilees was acting in self-defence or defence of another.”

The jury heard the four of them had spent the afternoon together, and CCTV recordings showed them in a pub and then in Leamington town centre before returning to Warwick where they left a betting shop at around 6pm.

Miss Brunner said: “What happened in the five hours which followed? At some point the group of four went to the home of Stephanie Merriless and Edward Cornet, sometimes known as Eddie.

“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.

The voices got louder as the neighbour believed the argument had moved out into the rear garden, and he said he heard the younger man say: “Get off my mum or I’ll knife you.”

Another neighbour said she also recognised Mr Cornet’s voice, and realised the other must be Stephanie’s son as she heard him swear at Eddie, saying: “I’m going to kill you,” and his mother telling him to stop.

The jury was told that another neighbour heard Merrilees say: “I hope he f***ing dies.”

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, inflicted with the small kitchen knife recovered from the flower bed, and went into cardiac arrest in the ambulance on his way to hospital where he was declared dead in the early hours of the morning.

The court heard that when Merrilees was arrested at the scene he was upset and crying, and told officers: “I didn’t mean for it to end up like this. It was either him or me, and it ended up being him.”

But when he was later formally interviewed, Merrilees replied “no comment” to questions, said Miss Brunner.

Describing Mr Cornet’s injuries, she told the jury that of the three knife wounds, one had gone all the way through the breastbone and another had penetrated to a depth of 6cm.

She said: “Both the heart and the liver had been cut by the knife, and you will hear the pathologist say that it would require severe force for the knife to penetrate that far into the body.”

She pointed out that Mr Cornet also had grazes to his face consistent with being scratched with fingernails.

Tests showed it was his blood on the knife, which also had both his and the defendant’s DNA on the handle – although she observed that it could have been handled ‘perfectly innocently’ in the house by both men.

Miss Brunner said the door from the patio leads into the kitchen, and there were signs of a disturbance having taken place in the living room where the television screen was broken.

And she added: “You may conclude that Edward Cornet was aggressive at some point that evening, perhaps to the defendant, perhaps to the defendant’s mother, perhaps to the defendant’s girlfriend.

“It seems that’s right, given what the neighbours heard. But you may conclude that whatever Edward Cornet did, there’s nothing to suggest he seriously hurt Jack Merrilees or either of the two women who were at the scene.

“Jack Merrilees armed himself with a knife from the kitchen and used that knife with severe force, not once, but three times to the chest area.

“A person is entitled to use reasonable force if it is necessary to defend himself or another person.

“The prosecution’s case is that Jack Merrilees was not acting in lawful self-defence, but in a state of uncontrolled anger. The violence he used was so extreme as to be unreasonable and unlawful.”

The trial continues.