Murder trial latest: Accused tells court: "I was petrified."
But Merrilees, 21, of Linkway, Leamington, who has denied murdering Mr Cornet, told the jury: “I was petrified. I thought he was going to finish off what he’d started in the living room.”
Edward Cornet, known as Eddie, died of his injuries in hospital in the early hours of the morning after the stabbing at the home he shared with Merrilees’ mother in Blackwell Lane, Hatton Park, at shortly after 11pm on May 2 last year.
Tearfully giving evidence, Merrilees was asked how he found his mother’s partner, and replied: “He didn’t seem too bad at the start, like a normal guy.
“But he started drinking and he would be abusive to my mum. Numerous occasions he’d hit my mum, strangle her, physical abuse. I never saw injuries to her, but my sister did.”
He said he lived with his girlfriend Rebecca Beveridge in Leamington and only saw his mother about once a month because he ‘did not really want to see Eddie,’ but had previously lived with his mother and Mr Cornet at an address in Kenilworth.
It was while they were there that he first saw violence towards his mother after he had got back from work late at night.
“I could hear shouting, and as I opened the door he had my mum against the wall by her throat. She was terrified. I tried to get him off by punching him and grabbing him.
“I had a skateboard, and I had no other choice but to hit him over the head with it. Then I had to run out of the house because he came after me. I didn’t have a phone at the time, so I couldn’t ring the police.”
He said on another occasion Mr Cornet had turned up drunk at the pub where he worked and got into a fight, so he stood between them and said: “What the f*** are you doing coming to my work and starting a fight.”
Merrilees said Mr Cornet then headbutted him before being dragged outside - and when he later returned to his mother’s home he said he could hear shouting and smashing, so called the police who took Mr Cornet away.
“When I got in almost all my belongings were smashed from my room, my music decks which he had dragged onto the landing and stamped on, smashed all my CDs and my TV had been pulled out.”
He said that on another occasion Mr Cornet had flown into a rage when he and two friends drank some of his bottle of Coke.
“He started throwing punches at me and got me on the floor, strangling me. My friends managed to pull him off.”
Of the events on May 2, he said: “My mum and he picked me and Becky up at about half past 12 to go shopping. But we didn’t go shopping. Eddie suggested we go out for a meal.”
They first went to a pub in Warwick where he and Mr Cornett had two pints each, and then to an Italian restaurant in Leamington where the two of them drank bottles of Peroni.
“Me, my mum and Becky were having a joke about (singer) Gary Barlow. I don’t think Eddie knew who he was. He got really wound up. We had to calm him down.”
On the way back to Hatton Park, they stopped at a bookies for Mr Cornet to put a bet on a boxing title fight taking place that night, and after they got back they streamed some boxing and extreme fighting videos from Becky’s laptop onto the television.
Merrilees, who said he and Mr Cornet were drinking bottles of San Miguel, said the rest of them were not particularly interested, but Mr Cornet was really enjoying the videos.
He said he began using the computer to check his Facebook account, and when a profile picture of a friend called Josh popped up, Mr Cornet lost his temper and ordered him to take it off the screen.
Mr Cornet’s anger, which took the others by surprise, was because Josh had not bought him a drink on New Year’s Eve.
Merrilees said he ‘clicked his face off the screen,’ but when he went back onto Facebook, instead of the page having ‘refreshed,’ Josh’s face was still there.
“I was sat on the sofa. Eddie stood up and threw the TV across the floor and threw himself across the room and wrapped his hands round my neck and said ‘I f***ing hate you.’
“He put all his weight on top of me. He had his hands round my neck, strangling me. I couldn’t breathe. I just knew everyone was shouting. I was f***ing terrified.”
He said he did not know how that incident ended, but earlier his barrister Jane Bickerstaff QC had told the jury: “His mother will say she tried to get him off and eventually clawed at his face; and that’s what caused Eddie to stop.”
Asked if he felt relief, Merrilees replied: “No, because he’s not the sort of person to let things go. I just made a dash for the back door, and I had a sense my mum and Becky were right behind me. I wanted to escape.”
As he ran through the kitchen to get out into the back garden and then through a gate to his mother’s parking space, he said he grabbed a knife off the draining board – and asked why, he said: “In fear. I thought he was going to try to kill me.”
Merrilees said that after running through the gate with the knife in his pocket, he heard a scream.
“I’m sure it was from Becky. It made me think she was in trouble and I ran back. Eddie was right in front of her.
“I threw a punch at him in his face. I didn’t want him to hurt Becky. I wanted to take him from trying to hurt Becky and let them get away, and he turned on me.
“I’m not sure what really happened. There was some sort of fight in the back garden. He kept coming at me, trying to grab me with his hands, trying to grab me round the neck.”
Crying, he said: “I was petrified. I thought he was going to try to finish off what he’d started in the living room.
“I shouted at him and warned him. I think I said I would stab him if he didn’t leave me alone. I was holding the knife in front of me. I must have stabbed him.
“I thought I just stabbed him once. I was just f***ing scared for my life.”
Asked how he felt when he realised what he had done, he answered: “Shock. I don’t know how to explain it. I’ve never felt anything like that before. It didn’t seem real.”
The trial continues.