Jon-Jo accused stays silent out of fear for his family

Jon-Jo Highton with mum Tracey

Jon-Jo Highton with mum Tracey

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One of eight men charged with murdering Preston teenager Jon-Jo Highton refused in court to name who he was with on the night, claiming it would put his family in danger.

Self-confessed drug dealer Owen Whitesmith told a jury in Preston he feared reprisals if he identified two men who accompanied him to the scene of the killing.

Whitesmith, who denies murder, was repeatedly asked by prosecuting barrister Neil Flewitt to say who else was in the Vauxhall Vectra car which drove to St Stephen’s Road, Deepdale shortly before Jon-Jo was attacked.

But time and again the 19-year-old from Glebe Close, Fulwood declined to reveal details, saying: “I’m just not willing to say who was in the car with me.” When asked if his reluctance was due to a code of silence or a “badge of honour” between fellow drug dealers he replied: “There is no code.”

Mr Flewitt asked: “So what are you afraid of?” Whitesmith replied: “Something might happen to my family.”

Whitesmith, the first of 11 defendants to go into the witness box at the start of the defence case, admitted earlier to being at the scene of Jon-Jo’s killing on August 23 last year. But he claimed he had only punched him once to help a friend who was fighting with him in the street.

He maintained Jon-Jo had once been a friend, but the two had drifted apart. He had not viewed him as an “enemy,” but denied Mr Flewitt’s assertion that he was just “trying to distance yourself from having any motive for doing him any harm.”

Seven others who have pleaded not guilty to murder are Arron Graham, 23, of 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. Liam Tunstall, 26, of Mark Close, Penwortham; John Wilding, 36, of Everton Street, Darwen and Stuart Eastham, 32, of Gisburn Road, Ribbleton deny assisting an offender.