Hatton Park murder trial opens in Warwick
Prosecutor Kate Brunner QC told the jury of eight women and four men: “This case is about a fatal stabbing. It was on the 2 of May 2015, at a little after 11pm, when a 999 call was made from a house on the outskirts of Warwick.
“Paramedics arrived soon after and found a man lying outside on the patio bleeding from wounds to his chest, and they saw a blood-smeared knife in the flower bed.
“Edward Cornet had been stabbed three times in his chest and the knife had gone into his heart and, despite the efforts of the paramedics, he died later that night.”
Miss Brunner said Mr Cornet and his partner Stephanie Merrilees lived together at the house in Blackwell Lane, Hatton Park, near Warwick, and her son Jack and his girlfriend were also there that night.
“There is no dispute that this defendant stabbed Edward Cornet with the knife found in the flower bed. It’s likely the issues will revolve around the circumstances of the stabbing, and whether Jack Merrilees was acting in self-defence or defence of another.”
The jury heard the four of them had spent the afternoon together, and CCTV recordings showed them in a pub in Warwick and then in Leamington town centre before returning to Warwick where they left a betting shop at around 6pm.
“What happened in the five hours which followed? At some point the group of four went to the home of Stephanie Merrilees and Edward Cornet, sometimes known as Eddie.
“We know from a neighbour that it sounded as though they were having some kind of a party that night. There was singing and a computer was being used to watch music videos until around 11pm.
“It was then that a fierce argument broke out, so fierce that parts of it were heard by neighbours.”
One neighbour, Alan Sage, said he was watching television when he heard an argument break out between one man, whose voice he recognised as Mr Cornet, and a younger man.
The voices got louder as Mr Sage believed the argument had moved out into the rear garden, and he said he heard the younger man say: “Get off my mum or I’ll knife you.”
Another neighbour, Chloe Brooke-Harris also recognised Mr Cornet’s voice, and realised the other must be Stephanie’s son as she heard him swear at Eddie, saying: “I’m going to kill you,” and his mother telling him to stop.
And the jury was told that Julie Leonard heard Merrilees say: “I hope he f***ing dies.”
Merrilees ran from the house after stabbing his mother’s partner, but then returned and spoke to the police and paramedics who had been called by his girlfriend Rebecca Beveridge.
Mr Cornet had three knife wounds to his chest, inflicted with the small kitchen knife recovered from the flower bed, and went into cardiac arrest in the ambulance on his way to hospital where he was declared dead in the early hours of the morning.
When Merrilees was arrested at the scene he was upset and crying, and told officers: “I didn’t mean for it to end up like this. It was either him or me, and it ended up being him.”
But when he was later formally interviewed, Merrilees replied ‘no comment’ to questions, said Miss Brunner.
Describing Mr Cornet’s injuries, she told the jury that of the three knife wounds, one had gone all the way through the breastbone and another had penetrated to a depth of 6cm.
“Both the heart and the liver had been cut by the knife, and you will hear the pathologist say that it would require severe force for the knife to penetrate that far into the body.”
She pointed out that Mr Cornet also had grazes to his face consistent with being scratched with fingernails.
Tests showed it was his blood on the knife, which also had both his and the defendant’s DNA on the handle – although she observed that it could have been handled ‘perfectly innocently’ in the house by both men.
Miss Brunner said the door from the patio leads into the kitchen, and there were signs of a disturbance having taken place in the living room where the television screen was broken.
And she added: “You may conclude that Edward Cornet was aggressive at some point that evening, perhaps to the defendant, perhaps to the defendant’s mother, perhaps to the defendant’s girlfriend.
“It seems that’s right, given what the neighbours heard. But you may conclude that whatever Edward Cornet did, there’s nothing to suggest he seriously hurt Jack Merrilees or either of the two women who were at the scene.
“Jack Merrilees armed himself with a knife from the kitchen and used that knife with severe force, not once, but three times to the chest area. A person is entitled to use reasonable force if it is necessary to defend himself or another person.
“The prosecution’s case is that Jack Merrilees was not acting in lawful self-defence, but in a state of uncontrolled anger. The violence he used was so extreme as to be unreasonable and unlawful.”
See Thursday's Herald for more on the trial, which continues this week.