Victim died five years after being stabbed

John Berry - who stabbed Dean Thomas Owen
John Berry - who stabbed Dean Thomas Owen

A KNIFE attack by a Wigan man led to the death of his lodger five years later, a murder trial jury has been told.

Dean Thomas Owen suffered a serious wound to his abdomen in May 2007 after his landlord John Berry stabbed him and it was that injury which eventually led to his death, alleged prosecutor Mark Heywood, QC.

Berry, 44, was convicted in April 2008 of wounding Mr Owen with intent but on May 19, 2012 his victim died from blood poisoning and because it is alleged this resulted from the original injury he was later re-charged with murder.

“It must be shown it was one substantial cause of death. But for that wound would he have died?” said Mr Heywood.

Berry, who is now wheelchair-bound because kidney problems have affected his legs, is on trial at Liverpool Crown Court denying murder.

Mr Heywood said that the victim had at one time been a fit and healthy family man with three children and working as a welder but by 2007 when he was aged 38 he was separated from his family and living in Berry’s first-floor flat in Loch Street, Pemberton.

They shared the property for two years with him on a sofa while his landlord slept in the bedroom.

On the evening of May 21, 2007 Mr Owen was in the flat asleep after drinking cider when he was awoken by the sound of someone coming up the stairs and thinking it might be a third party he kicked out.

It was Berry and he stopped kicking out at him and went back to bed. He could then hear Berry, who was irritated by the incident, messing around with knives he had in his bedroom. Berry then came into the room carrying a machete and knife and stabbed Mr Owen in the abdomen “and continued to thrust it and it was buried in his body.”

Mr Heywood said that the weapon that caused the injury was the knife and although Berry told him not to call an ambulance he did so and was taken to Wigan Infirmary.

During the 999 call Berry could be heard making threats, such as “f****** die.” When police arrived the victim said he did not feel well and collapsed.

At hospital it was found part of his stomach was protruding through the abdominal wound and he underwent emergency surgery and for a week appeared to be making a good recovery.

But by May 29 a CT scan revealed a hole in his small bowel and he underwent surgery to repair it. Another small hole was later spotted and after a further operation the wound had to be left open with a vacuum dressing to keep air out and he had to be fed intravenously as his gut could not properly function.

He was discharged from hospital in September and moved into sheltered accommodation receiving care from district nurses and his mum and sister.

Mr Owen was initially scrupulous about his care but became less so as he was depressed and irritable and felt his life had been ruined.

Two years later surgeons tried to repair the bowel damage but it was unsuccessful and a Hickman line was inserted so he could fed via a tube into his chest.

Mr Owen became more challenging, less compliant, missing medical appointments and drinking too much, “presumably to find some comfort”, said Mr Heywood.

He suffered repeated infections which meant hospital stays and by May 2011 because of his physical condition and non-compliance doctors decided he was unsuitable for further surgery.

A year later, on May 17, 2012, he was found unconscious following a fall and his condition deteriorated rapidly progressing to septic shock from blood poisoning and he died two days later.

Mr Heywood said that pathologists found that while he had suffered a brain injury through the fall that was not responsible for his death. They discovered that part of his bowel was dead which gave rise to infection and the fatal septicaemia.

“The prosecution’s case is that at the stab wound is, and was, a major underlying case of Mr Owen’s death...If he had not sustained the severe injury he would in all probability still now be alive,” contended Mr Heywood.