BAD feeling over a missing woollen hat led to the fatal stabbing of a 37-year-old Carlisle man on his doorstep, a jury heard.

At the city's crown court, two men have today gone on trial accused of murdering John Cingelis at the front door of his Harraby home on April 12. Prosecutors say Blair Dixon, 25, delivered a single and fatal stab wound to Mr Cingelis's chest.

It happened outside his Brantwood Avenue home in Harraby.

Dixon's co-accused, Alfonso Bitton, also 25, is equally guilty of murder because he "encouraged and supported Dixon," says the prosecution.

Both deny murder and intentionally and maliciously wounding Mr Cingeli's friend Barry Cartwright.

Dixon admits using the knife but says he acted in self-defence. Bitton says he was not at the scene.

Opening the case, prosecutor Michael Brady QC told the jury: "It's the Crown’s case that Blair Dixon stabbed Barry Cartwright and fatally stabbed John Cingelis.

"Although it was Mr Dixon who wielded the knife - a knife he had taken to the scene - present at the time was Alfonso Bitton, who by his presence, but more importantly by his actions, lent encouragement and support to Mr Dixon is as responsible as Mr Dixon for the death of Mr Cingelis and injury to Mr. Cartwright."

Mr Brady outlined the prosecution's case.

He said that during the evening before Mr Cingelis died, he was at his home, and he and Mr Cartwright were socialising with the defendants. They had all parted on "friendly terms," said Mr Brady.

But the following morning, said the barrister, Dixon and Bitton returned to Mr Cingelis's home looking for a missing Canada goose style hat.

In a statement, Mr Cartwright recalled seeing the defendants "come in shouting," with Dixon aggressively demanding to know where his hat was. Dixon said that the missing hat was worth £135, said Mr Cartwright, who told the men to get out of the house.

He pushed the taller of the two men out of the house but Dixon had turned round and produced a 'chef's kitchen knife", he said. He stabbed Mr Cartwright in the upper left arm, he said.

Mr Cingelis had then approached the front door - and at this point Dixon had lunged at him with the knife, said Mr Cartwright, and this was when Mr Cingelis was fatally stabbed.

When arrested, the court heard, Dixon had commented: "I haven't murdered anyone.

"How could I do it? I've been asleep."

Mr Brady said: "When Mr Dixon was informed that his clothing was to be seized he reacted very badly.

"He argued with the officers, taking exception to the fact that the police would have his clothing for a number of months.

"He also commented on the cost of the clothing pointing out that his trainers were worth £200, his clothing £500 and his underpants £60.

"This you may feel is redolent of the comments he made when storming around Mr. Cingelis’s flat looking for his hat - a hat he told Mr Cartwright was worth £135.

"Mr Dixon seems to be very conscious of the cost of his clothing."

Dixon later changed his story, the court heard. He no longer denied stabbing Mr Cingelis.

"It's anticipated he will accept stabbing both men and being responsible for the death of Mr Cingelis," said Mr Brady. "It is further anticipated he will say that he did so lawfully - that he was acting in self-defence during the course of Mr Cartwright seeking to steal drugs from him."

At hospital, Mr Cartwright was heard to say: “All over a woolly hat.” Bitton, of Eldon Drive, Harraby, Carlisle, and Dixon, of Welsh Road, are likely to given evidence later in the trial.