THE killing of a 42-year-old man in Mansfield has been described as ‘ludicrous, brutal and horrific’ by a witness at Nottingham Crown Court today.
Victim John-Paul Johnson - nicknamed Jonno - was beaten to death at a halfway house for vulnerable and homeless people where he lived on Chesterfield Road South on 25th October last year.
Two men, Carl Green (25) and Christopher Buckland (30), who lived at the property at the time, have both admitted murder, but 20-year-old tenant Daniel Bastable denies the charge.
On the afternoon of 24th October, Mr Johnson had helped fix an TV aerial in Buckland’s ground floor bedroom and the pair had then bought alcohol at Tesco and Bargain Booze later that day.
The pair spent several hours drinking, smoking a cannabis bong and watching television in Buckland’s room and they were accompanied by witness Brian Hurst who lived at another Midway Housing property.
Mr Hurst, who had also been drinking, said the atmosphere in the bedroom was good and everybody was getting along before an argument ensued later that evening after the group had been drinking for several hours.
He said that Bastable and Green joined them in the bedroom and the group continued drinking before the atmosphere changed when Green took offence to an alleged comment made by Mr Johnson about Green’s girlfriend or wife.
“They were sat on the sofa together, it had seemed like a normal conversation but then Green’s tone changed, he said (to Mr Johnson) ‘that’s got nothing to do with you, I don’t want to talk about it’,” said Mr Hurst.
“There was a short spell of quietness and then Greeny brought his right elbow down into Jonno’s face, it was a forceful blow, Jonno nearly fell off the side of the sofa.
“Jonno was trying to calm the situation down, but Greeny didn’t stop, he just carried on. Jonno was just trying to defend himself and cover his face up, he didn’t fight back.”
Mr Hurst said that Buckland had tried to intervene and calm Green down but Green had shoved him back across the room and carried on punching Mr Johnson in the face.
“Greeny’s elbows were going backwards and forwards, you could hear the thuds, you could hear the impact,” added Mr Hurst.
“I was trying to protect myself, to me it was ludicrous, it was way beyond what anyone should have to take for an argument, it was extreme, it was brutal.
“I could not watch it, it was disgusting.”
Mr Hurst, who is registered as disabled, told the jury that he didn’t want to get involved as he feared being beaten himself and had seen what had happened when Buckland tried to intervene.
When asked by prosecutor Stuart Rafferty QC, Mr Hurst said Bastable had been sat on the bed at the time of the attack.
Mr Hurst left the room during that attack but did not ring the police as he did not have a mobile phone on him but conceded that he could have made greater efforts to contact officers or ring an ambulance.
Mr Hurst also said that Bastable had asked him not to say anything about the incident when the pair met at breakfast at Midway Housing’s offices the next morning.
A second witness, Jason Kempin, who lived upstairs at the property, said he had been awoken about 2am by voices and music.
He went to the toilet in the night and felt the need for a cigarette so, alerted to noise and movement in the downstairs hallway, he went downstairs to try and borrow a cigarette from someone.
Mr Kempin said he saw Mr Johnson’s body lying on the floor, face down, and Green was sitting next to him against the radiator.
“I could see he had been in a fight, he had blood on his face, but he was struggling to breathe and I told Green to get him an ambulance,” he said.
Mr Kempin said that Green said, ‘this is what you get when you’re 40-odd-year-old and past it’. He said Green kept slapping Mr Johnson round the mouth and burning his lips and moustache with a cigarette lighter.
He said that Green was also stuffing tobacco into Mr Johnson’s mouth even though he was groaning and struggling to breathe. Green then asked Mr Kempin to help him carry Mr Johnson upstairs but he refused and returned to bed.
Mr Johnson died later that morning and a pathologist found 83 external injuries to his head, face, body and limbs.
The trial continues.