Accused denies friend’s murder

Victim Fred Shipley
Victim Fred Shipley
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A VULNERABLE man was bludgeoned to death after a dispute over his car, a court heard.

Fred Shipley sustained eight blows to the back of his head with a hammer or similar weapon, leaving the kitchen of his home in Paradise Crescent, Easington Colliery, a bloodbath.

Andrew Johnson denies murdering the former doorman on Saturday, July 3, last year.

As his trial opened at Newcastle Crown Court yesterday, the jury heard Johnson borrowed the 59-year-old’s Peugeot 306 for the day on Monday, June 28, to move from Easington Street to John Street.

It was returned with an extra 260 miles on the clock five days later – after several requests and a call to police – with Johnson claiming it had been in for repairs after it broke down in Sunderland.

Residents watched as Mr Shipley and brother Derek later confronted Johnson in the street over the issue.

The court heard Derek Shipley discovered his brother’s battered body in the kitchen doorway the next day after friends raised concerns.

The model enthusiast, described as kind, friendly and a “homebird” by friends, was last seen alive the night before by a neighbour when they had watched a World Cup match on television.

The jury heard palm prints belonging to 40-year-old Johnson were found at the top of the fridge door in a forensic sweep of the house.

Andrew Robertson, prosecuting, said it was the Crown’s case these were left as Johnson steadied himself as he rained down blows to the back of Mr Shipley’s head.

The victim had also sustained facial injuries and a defence wound to his arm.

In interview, Johnson said he could have touched the fridge as he got out the milk while making tea days before.

Mr Robertson said the evening before the attack, Johnson drank in the Colliery Club and at a cousin’s home into the early hours, consuming 11 to 12 pints.

A witness says he saw him early the next morning hanging out washed clothes at his new home, which Johnson denies.

Angela Johnson, the defendant’s sister and friend of Mr Shipley, said she and her partner had called Johnson to urge him to return the car.

She said it was a “lifeline” to Mr Shipley, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia which was under control, and he was happy to have it back, but had not believed the story the vehicle had been in the garage.

She also knew of occasions when her brother borrowed cash from Mr Shipley and it had not been repaid.

The trial, expected to last up to five weeks, will feature a computer-generated 3D reconstruction of the house, diagrams of injuries, maps and mobile phone records.

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham