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Jury sent out in Warwick murder trial

Wellesbourne Airfield
Wellesbourne Airfield

The incident occurred after Mr Cornet, Jack Merrilees, Jack’s mother Stephanie Merrilees and Jack’s girlfriend Rebecca Beveridge, had visited a pub in Warwick and a Leamington restaurant before returning to Stephanie Merrilees’ home.

Summing up the evidence Judge Griffith Jones reiterated to the jury that to convict Mr Merrilees of murder, there must not be a shred of doubt in their minds that he committed the offence.

When talking about the amount of alcohol in both men’s systems at the time of the incident, Judge Jones warned the jury to be wary of the toxicology results saying measuring such results could not be an exact science in this case and it was up to their judgement to decide whether to consider the results or not.

Mr Cornet’s blood alcohol reading may have been unreliable as he had received a blood transfusion after the incident while Mr Merilees’ level of intoxication could only be estimated as he was not tested until several hours after the incident.

Judge Jones said: “The prosecution say this was a case of murder, the defence say Mr Merrilees’ actions were lawful, it is your call to make a judgement. Never forget that you are the judge of the facts, you decide what evidence to accept or reject. You do this in the context of a criminal trial and the burden of proof is on the prosecution. You cannot convict Jack Merrilees of any offence unless you are convinced that he is guilty.”

During proceedings the defence explained how back in the house Mr Cornet had flown into a rage when a Facebook picture, of one of Merrilees friends whom Mr Cornet disliked, appeared on the television screen when a laptop was plugged into the device.

A little later Jack Merrilees accidentally let the picture of his friend appear again on the screen, at which point Mr Cornet pulled the TV to the living room floor, smashing the screen.

Mr Cornet then grabbed Jack Merrilees by the throat and proceeded the strangle him.

Stephanie Merrilees intervened, scratching Mr Cornet’s face, before he released Jack Merrilees who then fled towards the back of the house followed by Stephanie and Rebecca.

Jane Bickerstaff QC, defending told the jury that her client grabbed a small kitchen knife as he fled the house, believing both his mother and girlfriend were right behind him.

Mr Merrilees then heard a scream from his girlfriend and returned to see Mr Cornet confronting Rebecca.

At this point Mr Merrilees says he threw a punch at Mr Cornet to divert his attention to himself.

The struggle, which by this point had moved outside, escalated as Mr Cornet came at Mr Merrilees, attempting to grab his throat.

Mr Merrilees said he warned Mr Cornet that he would stab him if he didn’t leave him alone and held the knife in front of himself.

During the trial Mr Merrilees told the court he thought he had just stabbed Mr Cornet once and that there were elements of the incident he did not remember clearly due to the trauma of what happened.

Mr Cornet had three stab wounds in a small area, indicating they would most likely have been inflicted rapidly.

Immediately after the incident Mr Merrilees ran from the scene and was seen in tears on the street outside by a neighbour.

He then returned to the house and co-operated with police when they arrived.

Summing up the defence arguments today, Ms Bickerstaff painted a picture of Edward Cornet as having a history of violence particularly when in drink.

She described Mr Merrilees as of good character, with no criminal record and cast doubt over some of the statements of witnesses, who had no sight of the incident and, who in some cases, gave statements a number of days after the event.

She told the jury that the injuries Mr Merrilees inflicted on Mr Cornet were because he feared that Mr Cornet would hurt him, they were not committed unlawfully out of anger.

She said the fact that Mr Cornet pursued Jack, Stephanie and Rebecca out of the house was important and that after picking up the knife Mr Merrilees was moving away from Mr Cornet, only returning when he thought his girlfriend was in trouble.

She said: “The prosecution say it was murder, for that you must be sure that in anger the defendant acted with malice, against his normal character and stabbed Edward Cornet with intent to kill him or to cause him serious harm. If you entertain any doubts about that, if you think Jack Merrilees’ action was in self-defence out of fear and not out of anger, you must find him not guilty.”

Mr Jones said he was seeking a unanimous verdict at this point.

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