A FORMER Millom man accused with his son of involvement in a murder has revealed the pair were threatened over a drug debt the teenager owed a fellow suspect.

Paul Roberts, who was born and bred in the town, is on trial at Carlisle Crown Court along with 18-year-old Jamie Lee Roberts and four others.

They all stand accused of murdering 26-year-old Lee McKnight, who was savagely beaten to the point of death inside a city address, in the early hours of July 24 last year, before being dumped in a river.

Roberts senior, 51, spent more than an hour in the witness box n Friday. He is said to have arrived at the Charles Street address in which Mr McKnight was brutally attacked carrying a rucksack after the violence occurred. Householder Coral Edgar, also on trial, has told the jury she saw Mr McKnight lying bleeding on the kitchen floor with three men — Jamie Davison, Arron Graham and Roberts junior — standing there.

Roberts senior’s barrister, Gordon Cole QC, said to him: “You accept, and we will go through this in more detail, probably on Monday, you accept going to Charles Street in the early hours of July 24.”

“Yes, sir,” he replied.

Giving some indication of Roberts’ case, Mr Cole also said: “And you accept taking items from (the address) and disposing of those items.” The barrister asked: “Did you knowingly take or dispose of any items that belonged to Lee McKnight?”

“No sir,” said Roberts.

Roberts described being a heroin user and, for 40 years, having the nickname “Shattered”. “I used to drink a lot,” he said when asked to explain the nickname, adding: “My leg. I shattered my leg on a motorbike.”

Roberts spoke of having sole responsibility for sons, including Jamie Lee who, he said, owed a debt to another defendant, drug dealing “middle man” Jamie Davison.

Roberts thought his son owed around £1,400 and said he repaid £600 to Davison on behalf of the teenager in three separate instalments.

With the debt standing at less than £1,000, Roberts formed the view “you are not going to get hurt for that”, and said he told his son: “Just leave it. Don’t get in touch (with Davison). Just let it die a natural death.”

Asked to clarify his view of the arrears, he added: “It wouldn’t go away. He (Davison) would be busy enough. He would just busy himself with larger debts, giving Jamie Lee time to pay off.”

Roberts said he told his son to stay away from Davison, but then became aware the teen was further in debt — to the tune of £2,500, he believed.

He then learned that “Geordies” had made a call to his son’s “burner phone”. “They had told him if they didn’t get this money together, they were going to come around and do him in; they were going to chop my head off,” Roberts told jurors.

Wearing a white shirt and patterned tie in court, bald-headed Roberts said his son’s behaviour in the lead-up to July last year was “quite erratic”. “He was drinking a lot, which was never a good thing for Jamie Lee to be doing. A lot of cocaine.”

He said a friend of his son’s friend, 26-year-old murder suspect Graham, began visiting the Roberts family home for around a month and a half before Mr McKnight’s death. “I didn’t know him but he is a bit old for Jamie Lee,” said his dad.

The pair regularly went camping that summer, and Roberts recalled his son and Graham leaving his home address just hours before Mr Mr McKnight was attacked.

“When Jamie Lee and Arron Graham left your house, did you know where they were going?” asked Mr Cole.

Roberts, of Grey Street, Carlisle, replied: “No.”

Roberts, his son, Davison, Graham, Coral Edgar and her mother, Carol, all deny murder. The trial continues.