One of the men accused of murdering a Wigan father-to-be told a jury he was actually trying to get a £12,000 drug debt owed to him by another man that night.
Peter “Ricky” Connors, 32, of no fixed address, said he went to a car park on Bickershaw Lane, Abram, on the evening of December 28 after seeing John “Leggy” Pownall’s car there.
Manchester Crown Court was told he was travelling past in a Ford Transit Connect van with four other men, including his brother and co-accused David Connors.
He had no idea that 21-year-old victim Billy Livesley was there and had no plans to harm him, he said.
Speaking from the witness box as the defence opened its case, Peter Connors said he was travelling to a caravan site on Bickershaw Lane after his brother phoned and asked if he wanted to buy some stolen tools.
He was wearing size five flip-flops, despite being a size nine, as he did not expect to be out for long.
But he spotted Mr Pownall’s Chrysler C300 in the car park and told driver Jimmy Price to turn the van round, as he wanted to speak to him.
He told the jury Mr Pownall owed him £12,000 for cocaine and ketamine he had given him around eight weeks earlier.
His brother told Mr Price to “keep driving, he can sort it out in his own time”, but the van turned around and went to the car park.
Peter Connors said he got out of the van and walked towards Mr Pownall, shouting to ask where his money was.
He saw Billy there speaking to Mr Pownall - the jury had earlier been told the pair had arranged to meet there so Billy could give him £80.
Billy said “what?” and Connors swore at him, he told the court.
Billy, from Platt Bridge, ran away and Connors said he spoke to Mr Pownall, who was sitting in the car.
“I went towards him. He put his arms back and said, ‘Woah, I’m in hospital with cancer’”, he said.
Connors told the jury Mr Pownall said he would “sort it” and had just got out of hospital, so he “backed off a bit”.
He then heard “shouting and screaming” and turned around but did not know what had happened. He got back in the van and drove off.
Peter Connors said his brother David was “hysterical” in the van and told him: “I’ve hurt Billy but I’m not quite sure what I’ve done.”
The van went to the caravan site on Bickershaw Lane, where Peter Connors got into a Vauxhall Combo van owned by David Connors and returned to the car park.
He said he “wanted to make sure Billy was okay” and told the people there - Mr Pownall, Billy’s girlfriend Leah Galvin and friend Dillon Bland - to make sure he was alright, did not swallow his tongue and to call an ambulance.
But he did not stay, as he was “scared” the police would be involved and he would be recalled to prison, the court heard.
Peter Connors went to his caravan on Bryn Street briefly and told his girlfriend Lucy Jolley to get some clothes ready.
“I just wanted clean clothes and to get out of the area for a bit,” he said.
He went to the Triangle Club in Abram to see his brother James Connor, before returning to the caravan and leaving with Ms Jolley.
They initially went to Blackpool, then checked into a hotel in Preston, saying his sister was being treated at Royal Preston Hospital.
But they checked out shortly afterwards and went to stay with a friend in Burscough.
Peter Connors was arrested on January 2 and replied “no comment” to all questions when interviewed by the police.
He said he was “frightened” in case something happened to his brother.
Internet searches were found to have been carried out on Ms Jolley’s mobile phone in the hours and days after Billy was injured.
Peter Connors told the court he did not have internet access on his phone and the searches were his idea.
Just over an hour after Billy was hurt, there was a search for “hotels in Blackpool tonight” followed by a search for a hotel in Chorley an hour later.
A search was made for “ITV news” at 1.05am, followed by “Wigan news today” just after 11am because he “wanted to make sure Billy was alright”.
Later, internet searches included “assisting a murder”, “conspiracy to commit attempted murder”, “can you get charged for being there when a murder takes place” and “being an accessory to murder”.
Billy had died from a traumatic head injury.
Peter Connors said he was “mortified” by what had happened to Billy, who he had known since they were children.
He confirmed he had previously asked Billy to sell drugs for him, which he refused to do, and that he had hit him a couple of times around a year earlier “for being cheeky”.
He said Billy did not owe him any money and he denied making a threat towards him at the funeral of schoolboy Presley Stockton.
During cross-examination, Peter Connors said he did not have “a clue” why Christopher Price told police he wanted to go to the car park after seeing Billy, calling him “a bad liar”.
He said Billy “must have been scared” when he ran away from him in the car park, but could not explain why.
Paul Reid QC, prosecuting, suggested he had approached Billy saying, “you’re dead, you’re dead”, but Connors denied this.
He said David Connors told him that night that he had hit Billy, but he could not remember what else was said and whether his brother claimed it was done in self-defence.
Peter Connors and David Connors, 24, of Layton Street Caravan Park, Layton Road, Preston, both deny murder.