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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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Masked man stabbed my friend in head, accused tells Carlisle murder trial

A young father accused of murder has described the moments when he says two masked knifemen burst into a house searching for drugs and money before stabbing his friend.

Jamie Armstrong photo
Jamie Armstrong

Related: Stabbing victim tried to hold door closed against attacker, Carlisle court told

Jamie Armstrong, 21, gave the account as he testified for the first time in his trial at Carlisle Crown Court.

The defendant, of Warwick Road, Carlisle, denies murdering 23-year-old bar worker Luke Hollingsworth at his home in Etterby Lea Road, Stanwix, last July.

He claims the victim’s fatal wounds were inflicted by two raiders who attacked them both.

Questioned by his defence barrister, Michael Hayton QC, Armstrong said they first became aware of the men – both bigger than him, one wearing a hoodie, the other a balaclava and each wearing gloves – when they barged through a conservatory door.

“They just said, ‘Where’s the money, where’s the drugs at?’” recalled Armstrong, who said he had froze, and stood there, saying nothing. They denied any knowledge of drugs and money.

He then described how he and Mr Hollingsworth were marched upstairs by the two men, who brandished knives, each with 5ins blades. They searched the bedrooms but found nothing.

On the landing, after the defendant made a sarcastic remark to one of the two men, the stranger twice tried to slash Armstrong’s face, injuring both his hands as he raised them in self-defence.

Armstrong ran downstairs but one of the knifemen followed him and ordered him to lock the kitchen door, which he eventually managed to do, despite his left hand being so badly cut that it was by now “hanging off”, he said.

The other man came back downstairs with Mr Hollingsworth. In a kitchen drawer one of the intruders found a bundle of cash.

Armstrong continued: “He then said to Luke, ‘You’re a liar’, and went to stab him in the back of the head.

“The knife made contact with the back of his head... Luke got a towel from the radiator and placed it on the back of his head. Blood was trickling down his neck.”

A short time later, said Armstrong, the men made Mr Hollingsworth retrieve a clear plastic box from a cupboard, and inside it too there was more money. Armstrong said: “They said ‘You liar’ – and stabbed him in the back.”

Asked if the blow was forceful, he replied: “It must have been because it made him drop to his knees. The blade disappeared. He dropped down to the kitchen floor.”

The next thing that he recalled was waking up in the bathroom, where he and Mr Hollingsworth were slumped next to the bath. His friend was still alive, he said.

“We had each other’s hands on each other’s face,” he said. “We were saying everything is going to be okay.”

Mr Hayton asked the defendant: “Did you stab and kill your friend Luke Hollingsworth?” Armstrong replied: “No – never.”

The barrister added: “Did you injure yourself in any way deliberately?” The defendant replied: “No.”

Armstrong told the jury he first got to know Mr Hollingsworth through a mutual friend in 2012 and the two men had got on very well, seeing each other every day.

Asked what sort of things was it that they did together, he said: “We just smoked weed [cannabis] and we’d go up town together – go shopping.”

Armstrong told the court that at the beginning of last year he had become involved in supplying cannabis, getting the drug from a supplier outside of Carlisle.

Asked how he first made contact with this person, who he refused to name, Armstrong replied: “It was through Luke.”

Armstrong said that by June of last year he owed his supplier £9,000, which he described as being a normal level of debt, the result of drugs being laid on for him so that he could sell it to users.

He said that Mr Hollingsworth had owed £12,000 to two suppliers from outside Carlisle. On one occasion three armed men ran into a house in Lindisfarne Street where Mr Hollingsworth lived and demanded money and goods, leaving him in debt.

On another occasion, he said, somebody stole £500 from Mr Hollingsworth, so he had lent him £1,000.

His friend owed him a total of £3,000 but it was “no problem”, he told the jury.

Describing the day his friend died, Armstrong said his grandfather dropped him off by car near Mr Hollingsworth’s road. They sat in his garden and a lad called round to buy cannabis.

They went into the house Mr Hollingsworth wanted to watch horse racing on TV. It was at that time the raiders burst in.

Cross-examined by prosecuting barrister Brian Cummings QC about lying to police about the debt Mr Hollingsworth owed him, Armstrong said he told the truth about what happened on the day of murder but had not wanted to reveal involvement in drugs.

He told police that money found at his grandparents’ house - £3,500 - was largely from a win at the bookies.

The trial continues.

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