Murder accused tells jury he acted in self-defence

Liverpool Crown Court

Liverpool Crown Court

A Wigan man accused of battering a flatmate to death has told a jury he assaulted the victim in self-defence.

Daniel Eckersall said Eric Caddick had come at him with a knife and he attacked him fearing for his own life.

It is alleged that he and another flatmate Geoffrey Cunliffe took part in an attack involving kicking, beating and stamping on 61-year-old Mr Caddick on November 25 last year. His brain injuries were so severe that he never regained consciousness after being found following a 999 call and died three and a half months later.

Eckersall, 32, and 48-year-old Cunliffe, both of Withington Lane, Aspull, both deny murder.

Eckersall also denies robbing the victim twice. Also in the dock at Liverpool Crown Court is Gavin Jones, 48, of Lancaster Road, Wigan, who denies the earlier robbery.

Prosecutor Nicholas Johnson has claimed Eckersall’s ex-wife Natalie saw at first hand how he would control Mr Caddick, who was alcohol-dependent and who lived a chaotic lifestyle.

And on one occasion she saw him assaulting Mr Caddick by “jumping and stamping” on his head.

At lunchtime November 25 last year Eckersall and Cunliffe, who had been drinking, arrived at her home and said Mr Caddick was sleeping it off. Eckersall claimed Mr Caddick had grabbed him and threatened him with a knife and he head-butted him.

That evening a 999 call was made by Eckersall summoning help for Mr Caddick. He said he and Cunliffe had come back to find him in a pool of vomit and looking like he had banged his head.

At hospital the victim was found to have suffered a traumatic brain injury caused by violent and rapid twisting of his head. An expert found that the level of force used was “extreme” and that forceful kicking or stamping must have been the cause. The attack put him in a coma and he died from pneumonia on March 13.

Eckersall said that on the day of the incident he woke up to the sound of arguing between Mr Caddick and Cunliffe and he saw Cunliffe punch him three times to the side of his head while he was sitting in the kitchen.

“I grabbed hold of Geoff and pulled him away from Eric and ushered him into the front room. Eric turned round and came at me with a knife and said, ‘You are not going to be seeing Thomas (Eckershall’s son) again’. I thought he was going to kill me. I was shocked and scared. I moved a bit to the left to avoid the knife and I head-butted him and punched him on the jaw. He slumped back and ended up sunk down against the cupboard,” claimed Eckersall.

“I was saying, ‘please just drop the knife’ but he wouldn’t. He was mumbling, ‘I’m going to kill you’. I kicked out towards the knife and connected with his face. He was still trying to get at me. I was still screaming ‘put that knife down’ but he wouldn’t. I stamped on his head hard. He then dropped the knife.”

Eckersall said he and Cunliffe both left. They spent the day drinking and returned to the flat that evening and found Mr Caddick lying in a pool of vomit. Eckersall, who admitted he had also been snorting cocaine, said Cunliffe mopped up some of the blood from the victim and rang 999.

Proceeding