A PHONE used by one of the six people accused of murdering Carlisle man Lee McKnight sent a series of late-night messages to his girlfriend, at one point telling her: “Not my fault.”

That message – sent in the early hours of July 24 last year – was from 18-year-old Jamie Lee Roberts, one of the three men accused of beating up Mr McKnight after he was “lured” to a property in Carlisle on the day when he died, jurors heard.

The exchange was presented to the court as prosecuting barrister Tim Evans took jurors through some of the phone records and CCTV images which will be evidence in the trial.

Roberts, of Grey Street, Carlisle, denies murder, as do the five other defendants in the case.

The exchange of messages was outlined as Mr Evans quizzed Detective Constable Matthew Rees, who took the jury through phone and CCTV evidence.

The images shown to the jury included what police say was the last known image of Mr McKnight alive – CCTV footage of him visiting the Tesco filling station in Warwick Road, Carlisle, at 7pm on July 23 last year.

Mr McKnight died early the following morning. 

The jury also saw CCTV recordings which police say track the journey made by a Nissan Navara pickup, the vehicle in which Mr McKnight – badly beaten but still alive – was transported to the River Caldew south of Carlisle before being “dumped” in the river.

The jury was told that after Mr McKnight, 26, was murdered, images captured the Nissan pickup truck being driven through Carlisle – first to an area of countryside near the city’s Stead McAlpin factory and then back into Carlisle, along Warwick Road and the A69 towards Wetheral.

Police found the pickup after it was abandoned deep inside woodland at Wreay, the court heard.

Going through the messages from Jamie Lee Roberts’ phone, DC Rees outlined what police found, including messages sent a few minutes after 3.40am on July 24.

One said: “I love you a lot my girl. Not my fault. I love you. If I don’t reply tomoz, remember I will always love you.”

The jury also heard Mr Evans and DC Rees read a transcript of the phone call made by the farmer who discovered Mr McKnight’s body in the River Caldew shortly after 5am that day.

“I think I’ve found a body in the River Caldew,” the farmer told the police call handler after his 999 call was answered.

The farmer spoke of having seen a “curious vehicle” driving past his farm earlier that morning.

“I can’t believe it,” he said, though he assured the police call handler that he was fine.

He described looking at a person’s body. “I think it has just been dumped,” he said, explaining that he was standing 15ft away from the person, who was lying in the water, two-and-a-half to three feet from the riverbank.

The farmer also described seeing a “sheet”, which he said he believed had been used to transport the person.

The prosecution say that Jamie Lee Roberts, of Grey Street, Carlisle, and his co-accused Arron Graham, 25, of Blackwell Road, Currock, were recruited as “muscle” by Jamie Davison, 26, of Beverley Rise, Harraby, before the trio beat Mr McKnight “to the point of death” at Coral Edgar’s home in Charles Street, Carlisle, earlier that morning.

Coral’s mother Carol, 46, also of Charles Street, and Paul Roberts, 51, who lives with his son Jamie Lee at Grey Street, acted as helpers after Mr McKnight was attacked, say the prosecution.

The prosecution say Mr McKnight was attacked because he owed money to Jamie Davison, who was himself being chased for money by “serious” out-of-town drug dealers.

The trial continues.