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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

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Carlisle murder trial: Best friends who dealt in drugs had fallen out

A Carlisle bar worker had already been robbed and burgled twice in the months leading up to his death.

Jamie Armstrong photo
Jamie Armstrong

Related: Carlisle bar worker found dead in blood-spattered bathroom

The city’s crown court was told that both 23-year-old Luke Hollingsworth and Jamie Armstrong, now 21, were “involved in dealing drugs – specifically cannabis” – in the Carlisle area.

Prosecutor Brian Cummings told the jury that while one witness described the pair as “best friends”, they had fallen out more recently.

He claimed that Mr Hollingsworth owed Armstrong money and had done for some time.

He said that Mr Hollingsworth in turn suspected Armstrong of stealing a safe containing cannabis from his home in Etterby Lea, Stanwix.

Witness Gareth Jones told the court that Mr Hollingsworth had told him he suspected that the safe burglary had been carried out by someone close to him.

“He said it was the only thing that was missing,” recalled Mr Jones, who worked with the victim in the kitchen of the Wetherspoons pub.

“Nothing else was touched; he thought it had to be someone who knew it was there.”

When questioned further, the witness said Mr Hollingsworth also believed it was someone close to him because his beloved Staffordshire Bull Terrier dog had “peed at the bottom of the stairs” – something it only did when over-excited.

However, Armstrong’s name was never mentioned to Mr Jones.

The court heard how the safe burglary, thought to have occurred sometime in the month before his death, was not the first time drugs had led to Mr Hollingsworth being targeted.

Both his girlfriend – who cannot be named for legal reasons – and Armstrong told police that Mr Hollingsworth had been threatened by two men “within the past 12 months”.

Mr Cummings told the court: “According to [the girlfriend], he had said that two lads with hammers had entered the Lindisfarne Street address one time and had robbed him of his money and his cannabis.”

It is this previous assault that is understood to form the basis of Armstrong’s defence, as he insists Mr Hollingsworth’s death was the result of a similar attack.

While in hospital in Newcastle receiving extensive treatment for the serious injuries to his hands, Armstrong volunteered various remarks about that afternoon.

“Essentially that he and Luke Hollingsworth had been smoking cannabis when two young men came in, looking for money and drugs, and threatened them with a knife,” Mr Cummings told the jury.

“[Armstrong] said in those remarks that one of those intruders had his face covered with a mask or a balaclava, and the other was wearing a hoodie.”

The court heard how Armstrong told police that one swiped at his face in a forehand-backhand motion, and his hands were injured as he reached up to protect himself.

He repeated a similar story when officially interviewed between July 19 and 21, insisting that the last thing he remembers is “being in the bathroom with Luke, each having his hands on the other’s face and Luke saying: ‘We’re going to be alright.’”

Armstrong then claims to have no memory after that.

The prosecution have refuted his story on a number of different points, but primarily have questioned how the intruders escaped if both the front and back door were locked from the inside.

“Why would they jump out of a first floor front bedroom window, when they could walk out the back door?” Mr Cummings questioned.

Armstrong denies murdering Mr Hollingsworth on July 10, 2013.

The trial continues.

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