Preston teenager Jon-Jo Highton was murdered in revenge for an incident which happened at a drug rival’s home the day before, a jury has been told.
Three men – thought to be associates of Jon-Jo – tried to get into the home Owen Whitesmith shared with his mother in Glebe Close, Preston, but when they were stopped at the door, a friend of Whitesmith’s mum was headbutted, sparking the furious attack on Jon-Jo the following day.
We are not able to say which of the defendants struck that fatal blow but what we do say is that each of the defendant’s charged with (Jon-Jo’s murder) is guilty of that offence because he participated in the attack and did so with murderous intent.Mr Flewitt QC
Preston Crown Court heard Whitesmith and his associates had started to gather weapons including knives, axes, a hammer and a sword.
One woman said Whitesmith and his associates were always talking about stabbing and shooting people and described them as “very horrible and they had so much anger for young kids”.
She also told police about an occasion when defendant Arron Graham had walked into her flat wearing a stab vest and said: “I’m gonna take this knife and I’m gonna go and find Jon-Jo Highton and this is what I’m gonna do to him” before driving a knife on to the vest.
Prosecutor Neil Flewitt QC described animosity between Owen Whitesmith and his friends and Jon-Jo Highton and his friends.
One witness said he knew Whitesmith was a drug dealer working in direct opposition to Jon-Jo’s friend Levi Wilson and “his crew”.
Following the incident at Whitesmith’s home, the defendant – who denies murder – allegedly made a number of phone calls recruiting Graham and a number of others to take part in a revenge attack.
Prosecutor Neil Flewitt QC said Graham was “enthusiastic” about getting involved and in the hours before the alleged murder sent a text message to Whitesmith telling him: “Don’t you let me down.”
Whitesmith called on Liam Tunstall to provide transport but when Tunstall stopped answering his phone or replying to text messages Whitesmith told Graham they were “a man down” and called on Joshua Bore to drive them to the scene, court heard. On the night of August 23 last year, eight men travelled in two cars to carry out the attack, jurors were told.
Whitesmith, Graham, Bore, Craig Walton and Steven Walton travelled in the Vauxhall Vectra but phone records link that vehicle with a Vauxhall Meriva carrying Zaahid Patel, Mohammed Sabbah Dal and Minhaj Musa, prosecutors say.
Earlier in the day Whitesmith had named another man he wanted to avenge but by the time the two cars pulled upon in St Stephen’s Road at 11.20pm Jon-Jo Highton was the target of the attack. Jon-Jo was stabbed repeatedly with several weapons including what is believed to be a sword as he walked to a friend’s house after spending the evening drinking and playing pool in the Charnock pub, Deepdale. The fatal blow severed his jugular vein and the dad-of-one died at the scene.
Mr Flewitt QC said: “We are not able to say which of the defendants struck that fatal blow but what we do say is that each of the defendant’s charged with (Jon-Jo’s murder) is guilty of that offence because he participated in the attack and did so with murderous intent.”
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.