Murder accused: I blacked out

Floral tributes and a Police incident room near the home of murder victim Steven Rourke (below) on Bickershaw Lane, Bickershaw
Floral tributes and a Police incident room near the home of murder victim Steven Rourke (below) on Bickershaw Lane, Bickershaw

A WIGAN man accused of murdering his gay next door neighbour told a jury that the incident happened after the victim propositioned him but denied killing him.

James Jepson claimed that after Steven Rourke asked him for sex he had a sudden vision of a relative who had abused him when he was a child.

Steven Rourke, 26, who was found dead on open land off Bickershaw Lane

Steven Rourke, 26, who was found dead on open land off Bickershaw Lane

“I just froze. The next thing I must have blacked out for a minute or two. I came round, I snapped out of it and Steven was lying on the floor. I didn’t know what to do,” he said.

Liverpool Crown Court has heard that the body of 26-year-old schizophrenic Mr Rourke was found three days later in Jepson’s wheelie bin abandoned on waste land.

He had been strangled with a piece of blue washing line and was upside down in the bin covered in carpet. Police found CCTV footage showing Jepson wheeling the bin around on occasions in the days after the killing.

Jepson, 25, known as Kelly, said that he had gone to the back door of his home in Bickershaw Lane, Hindley, Wigan, for a cigarette on the evening of March 22 and was shocked to find Mr Rourke there.

He was wearing shorts and a T-shirt but was bare footed and had a piece of washing line around his neck, which he initially thought was a scarf.

Cross-examined by Andrew Menary, QC, prosecuting, Jepson agreed that the first time he had mentioned about being abused was to his solicitor before the trial got underway.

He agreed he had also not told the police that Mr Rourke had propositioned him. He said he did not like talking to the police as he did not trust them and had lied to them as “I didn’t want to believe what I had done because it was nasty what I had done moving the body like that.”

He said that on the fateful night he had been drinking and smoking cannabis and unknown to his girlfriend, Rauridh Earley, had been taking cocaine.

“I was a bit tipsy, a bit stoned and a bit giddy.” His girlfriend and her friend had been at his home making cup cakes that evening and it was after they had left that the incident happened.

Jepson has pleaded not guilty to murder between March 21 and 26 this year.

Mr Menary pointed out that the washing line had been tightly wrapped around the victim’s neck four times and had a double knot at the front.

Mr Menary suggested to him that he “simply could not bring himself” to admit killing him. “If I done it I would admit it,” he replied.

He said he did not call the police because he had cannabis plants in his bedroom. “It was heartless, I was just thinking of myself.”

Further quizzed he maintained he had not killed him and said he could not have done so as he still had a cannabis joint in his hand after he came round and found Mr Rourke on the ground.

He agreed he went out to a party after Mr Rourke’s death and had not told anyone what had happened. “I must have forgotten what happened,” he said.

The court heard that petrol was found on the victim’s clothing but Jepson denied being responsible for that.

Miss Earley, 20, who was suffering from laryngitis, told the court that she had been going out with Jepson since September. She had not moved in with him into the Bickershaw Lane address but put her name on the tenancy agreement as he was unemployed and she was working as a barmaid.

She said that he sometimes got angry because of the death of his father the previous year and she had suggested counselling as he was struggling with his grief and he went about three times.

The week before the killing she discovered she was pregnant and although Jepson wanted her to keep it he agreed with her that she was too young and on March 22 she began taking medication to terminate the pregnancy.

She said that on the Saturday Jepson got in touch saying he needed her. When they met up he seemed fine but said he had been told Mr Rourke had gone missing.

The next afternoon he again said he needed to see her and when they met up he said, “I think I have killed somebody” and started crying. She agreed she told police that he told her, “I have done something stupid, I have killed somebody.”

She told him to give himself up to police, which he later did, but before they parted he asked for a kiss and a cuddle. She broke down in tears as she said, “I knew it would be the last time I would see him so I couldn’t do it.”

The case continues