THE man accused of setting up a plan to murder Preston teen Jon-Jo Highton is in the witness box at Preston Crown Court to defend himself against the charge of murder.
Self-confessed drug dealer Owen Whitesmith, 19, has been telling the court about his drugs business and a raid at the family home he shared with his mum and younger brother in Fulwood, the night before Jon-Jo was killed.
Whitesmith, of Glebe Close, Fulwood, says he was asleep when three men tried to force their way into his house, assaulting his mum’s friend in the process.
When he heard about the attack he says he planned to go out and find one of the men - Daniel Quinn - and attack him.
Whitesmith has been talking the jury through a series of calls and text messages to co-defendant Arran Graham made on August 23 in which the pair appeared to be making plans to get a vehicle and set out to find “Quinny”.
He says he had known jon-Jo from the age of 11 but had stopped hanging around with him and his friends at around 15 or 16 years old.
He told the jury: “They tried robbing me. Not really Jon-Jo, just Quinny and that.
“If they saw me they’d rob me and batter me.”
But when asked by his defence lawyer John McDermott QC: “Was Jon-Jo ever involved?”, Whitesmith replied: “No.”
Whitesmith said he had seen Jon-Jo around several times in the weeks before he was murdered and said if there had been a problem he would have had opportunities to attack the dad-of-one.
On August 23 - the day Jon-jo was killed - a text message was sent from Whitesmith’s phone to Graham’s phone, which read: “We’re going looking for dat Quinny.”
Whitesmith explained to the jury: “I wanted to find Quinny. Just like, have a fight with him. Beat him up, really.”
Jon-Jo was killed when he was set upon by a group of at least eight men, armed with knives, an axe and a sword.
He suffered catastrophic head and neck injuries.
Owen Whitesmith, 19, of Glebe Close Fulwood; Arron Graham, 23, Ripon Street, Preston; Stephen Walton, 24, of no fixed address; Craig Walton, 26, of Watling Street Road, Fulwood; Joshua Bore, 19, of Morris Road, Ribbleton; Zaahid Patel, 20, of Park Avenue, Preston; Mohammed Sabbah Dal, 20, of Alice Square, Preston; and Minhaj Musa, 21, of Deepdale Road, Preston all deny murder.
Liam Tunstall, 26, of Mark Close, Penwortham; John Wilding, 36, of Everton Street, Darwen and Stuart Eastham, 32, Gisburn Road, Ribbleton deny assisting an offender.