Murder trial jury told of heated row over Steven May's late mother's mobile phone
Two men have told a murder trial jury how the man accused of killing Preston dad Steven May retrieved a missing mobile phone from overgrown grass in the back garden of the home the men shared.
Mr May was found to have suffered 76 rib fractures in the last 12 weeks of his life, and severe bleeding from a broken jaw, following a post mortem examination.
His lodger Darren Taylor, who had been living with him for around 12 weeks before he died, denies his murder.
The jury at Preston Crown Court was informed the defendant would not be present during the proceedings on Tuesday, but that the case would proceed.
Neil Lockhart, who is Steven May's niece's ex-boyfriend, was called to give evidence.
The court was told Mr Lockhart had known Steven May for around 20 years, and the defendant Darren Taylor for 30 years.
Mr Lockhart said another witness, his best friend Michael 'Mick' Brady, called him and informed him Steven had died.
The jury was told of a heated exchange between Mr Lockhart and Darren Taylor which happened when Mr Lockhart, along with Mr Brady, attended the address in a bid to get Mr May's late mother Sheila's mobile phone back, on behalf of Mr May's family.
Prosecuting, Gordon Coles QC asked him if it was correct that he and Mick Brady went to see Taylor on May 22 to ask him where the phone was.
He agreed and added: "He was sat in the chair with his head in his hands saying: 'Me head's done in, me head's done in, I don't know".
"He was actually sat with the SIM card in his hand.
"I actually got mad and said: " You've got the SIM card in your hand so where's the phone?"
The prosecutor said: "Did you ask had he sold the phone?"
He replied: "Yes. He just kept saying he didn't know where it was."
Mr Lockhart said he was annoyed because Mr May was his sons' uncle and the phone was "sentimental".
He admitted he had threatened to 'give him a good hiding' before leaving the house, adding: "To be honest I got that aggressive I had to get out of there because I could see myself doing something."
The court heard the men returned at 7pm that night to get the phone.
The court heard Darren Taylor told them it might have dropped out of his pocket when he had been having a can in the back garden. He went into the garden to an area that was slightly overgrown and retrieved the flip phone, which Mr Lockhart snatched it off him and took back to Mr May's sister, Michelle Halsall.
He said the phone was worth very little but was of great sentimental value because Sheila, Steven May' mother, was a "lovely lady".
Michael Brady, who himself had known both Steven May and Darren Taylor for 30 years, was also called to give evidence.
He was also friends with Steven May's brother in law, Rob Halsall.
He told the jury he was in Preston Morrisons with his wife on May 20 when Mr Halsall rang him to say Steven had been found dead.
He immediately contacted Darren Taylor by phone and he was upset, so he went to the house on Raven Street to see him.
He said paramedics and carers were still at the house , and he had given Taylor a cigarette and put his arms around him.
Mr Taylor then suggested Steven May might have had an epileptic fit and remarked: "I could have done more."
Mr Brady also recalled going to the house to retrieve the phone and said: "When we went in the garden he was stood there with a garden rake. He said: 'It's out here somewhere.'
"He (Taylor) picked it up and said: 'Oh it's here.'"