The man who delivered the blow that killed a Wigan dad-to-be told a murder trial he hit him with a metal bar because he feared he was going to be attacked.
David Connors admitted swinging the prybar towards Billy Livesley at a car park on Bickershaw Lane, Abram, on December 28.
He told a jury at Manchester Crown Court that the 21-year-old was running towards him and he hit him.
Giving evidence yesterday, he said: “As he ran towards me, he’s got closer and I just swung the bar.”
Billy suffered a serious head injury and was taken to hospital, but he died the following day, triggering a murder investigation.
Connors, 26, of Layton Street Caravan Park, Layton Road, Preston, has pleaded not guilty to murder, along with his brother Peter Connors, 32, who is of no fixed address.
He told the jury that he had known Billy for several years and saw him as “a very intimidating person and a violent person”.
He said he had seen Billy with knives in a nightclub in Ashton and in his grandmother’s garden, and had heard about an incident where he threw ammonia in someone’s face.
Connors said Billy, who lived in Platt Bridge, was “well connected” and “a lot of people liked him”.
The jury heard Connors was making a living by landscaping gardens and “thieving tools at night-time”.
Along with his cousins Jimmy Price, Christopher Price and Kevin Shaw, he had stolen tools from a container in Westhoughton on the night of December 27, using a prybar to break in.
The tools stayed in the Ford Transit Connect van overnight, before he moved them into his Vauxhall Combo van the next day, leaving the prybar in the Ford so it could be used in another burglary.
He was trying to sell the tools on the evening of December 28, first speaking to his brother James Connor at the Triangle Club in Abram to see if he knew anyone who would buy them and later offering them to Peter Connors.
He went to pick up Peter Connors from his caravan site off Lily Lane, travelling in a Ford Transit Connect van with his cousins.
They were then heading towards the Bickershaw Lane caravan site where David Connors lived when his brother told Jimmy Price to turn the van around.
The jury had earlier heard Peter Connors say he had seen John “Leggy” Pownall’s car there and wanted to speak to him as he owed him £12,000 for drugs.
But the prosecution claim he had actually seen Billy there, something he denied.
David Connors told Jimmy Price to keep driving, saying his brother should “sort it out in his own time”, but the vehicle turned round on Bickershaw Lane and went to the car park.
He said Peter Connors got out of the van and went towards Mr Pownall’s car.
“A lot of shouting and screaming has gone on between them,” he said, adding that he could not hear what was said as the van’s engine was running.
His brother argued with Mr Pownall, but David Connors said it then looked like he was speaking to Billy.
He said Billy seemed to go towards his brother and move his hands as if to say “what?”
Connors said: “Straight away I felt my brother was under attack.”
Feeling something was not right, he said: “I have got my head down, scrambled around on the floor for something and the first thing that came to my hand was that bar.”
He said he was “in fear” and thought having the prybar would protect him.
He got out of the van and saw Billy running towards him, moving his hands a lot and “clearly annoyed about something”.
“He’s come towards me running very fast and straight away obviously I thought he was coming to attack me,” Connors said.
He said he swung the bar towards Billy, made contact and saw him move a few steps before falling face-first onto the floor.
He did not go over to Billy, but saw he was having a seizure.
Connors said: “Straight away I was screaming and crying, saying ‘I think I’ve hit him’ and I got in the van.”
Witnesses had earlier told the murder trial they heard someone say: “I’ve killed him, I’ve killed him.” Connors said he might have said that but did not remember.
“If I did say it, I have said it out of fear and regret for what I have done,” he said.
The brothers got back in the van and Jimmy Price drove it to the caravan site on Bickershaw Lane.
In the van, he said: “I think I have hit Billy, Billy’s hit”.
Connors said he got out of the van, walked around the site and decided to get into his girlfriend’s car after seeing the keys were in it.
He drove to Skelmersdale alone, before returning to the caravan park a few hours later and spending the night there, he said.
“I didn’t know where I was driving to be honest,” he said. “I wanted to clear my head. My head was a mess.”
The court had earlier heard that phone calls were made between Connors, his brother and Jimmy Price that night, but he told the jury he could not remember what was said.
Connors was arrested on January 13 and gave “no comment” as the only reply during two police interviews. He told the court this was on the advice of his solicitor.
When questioned by prosecutor Paul Reid QC, Connors denied that his brother had said “he’s dead” when driving along Bickershaw Lane and saying “you’re dead, you’re dead” in the car park.
He said he had “no idea” why Christopher Price had told police that Peter Connors had seen Billy there.
Connors said he did not know why Billy had run away from his brother and said he got the prybar to protect both himself and Peter Connors, but had no intention to use it.
He said: “I felt like if I had that in my hand, I felt a bit safer. It was to save myself.”
Connor said he was aiming for Billy’s shoulder, not his head, when he hit him with the bar.
The bar came out of his hand when he hit Billy, he said, and he had not seen it since.
Mr Reid referred to evidence from pathologist Dr Charles Wilson that the bar would have stayed in Billy’s head unless it was withdrawn or Billy moved and Connors said someone else “must have” taken it out.
He said he did not talk to anyone about what had happened or that he had done it in self-defence.