Court hears grizzly evidence as trial begins of man accused of killing best friend Simon Bowman

A close relationship between two best friends who were "like brothers" ended in a savage murder in which the victim lost his fingers and toes, jurors have been told.

Tuesday, 3rd December 2019, 4:34 pm
Updated Tuesday, 3rd December 2019, 5:08 pm
Simon Bowman
Simon Bowman

Simon Bowman, 54, was found dead in his flat on High Street in Jarrow on May 14 having sustained extensive head and chest injuries as well deep stab wounds from a variety of weapons, Newcastle Crown Court has heard.

Christopher Graham, 30, is being tried for murder after denying he intended to kill his friend.

Richard Wright QC, prosecuting, told the court that when police entered the flat they found Mr Bowman's body had been mutilated, with his digits removed both before and after he died.

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Jurors were played body-cam footage played in which an officer can be heard exclaiming: "His toes are on the floor," as he enters the apartment.

Mr Wright told the court: "Simon Bowman had been subjected to a sustained and savage attack that was as violent as it was disturbing."

Graham had moved into Mr Bowman's flat and was living there of the time of the attack, jurors were told.

The official address for Graham given on the court list was Romney Avenue, in Washington.

The court heard Graham admits he was solely responsible for Mr Bowman's injuries but maintains his actions were lawful.

Mr Wright said: "Even if, which we do not accept, there had been any need to use self-defence against Simon Bowman, you can be sure that the violence that Christopher Graham in fact deployed went far beyond anything that could ever be described as the use of reasonable and therefore lawful force."

Prosecutors told the court that observers of their relationship said they appeared to be "very close, happy and friendly" and some questioned whether or not their friendship was physical.

They added that good friends "spoke of them being like best friends or brothers" while those less close said they looked to be father and son.

Jurors were played a dropped 999 call made from Mr Bowman's mobile in the early hours of May 13 and then a another call made by police to the murder accused at around 2am.

In it he claimed the initial call was made by accident, saying: "I'm really, really sorry.

"I'm just getting the hang of this ****** phone."

The prosecution told jurors that Graham had sent text messages to friends and relatives that night. They said that one message to a friend suggested that the pair were going to take drugs.

Mr Wright said: "The messages sent after 3am to his mother suggest that he was sick of Simon Bowman and had been stabbed by him.

"Whether Simon Bowman had stabbed Christopher Graham is far from clear.

"When he was arrested, the defendant did have a minor wound to his arm."

However, he added that a pathologist had said they may well have been self-inflicted.

Mr Wright then said that police had found a letter from the job centre when they searched Graham's grandmother's house.

On it, Graham had written: "I'm scared for my life because of this Simon Bowman making me stay at his when I don't want to and he's taken my money off us and getting us to do a crime like the post office."

Mr Wright questioned when it could have been written and said: "There are therefore two possibilities. He either wrote it after the killing or he took the trouble to transport it with him to his grandmother's after the killing.

"Either conclusion begs the question as to why he would do that?"

The jury were shown CCTV footage of Graham on the morning of May 13 after he had left the flat.

Mr Wright said: "He took with him a large number of carrier bags that inferentially contained his clothes and possessions. Given that they were not found inside the flat he also appears to have removed the various weaponswith which he attacked and killed Simon Bowman.

"The behaviour of Christopher Graham on the 13th and 14th was generally calm though at times a little strange. He knew of course what he had done and that it was inevitable that in time somebody would discover Simon Bowman's body.

"The defendant did not appear to be seriously injured to those who saw him."

The footage showed the defendant in a nearby shop before getting a taxi to his grandparents home, that he had shared with them until he chose to leave and move in with Mr Bowman.

Mr Wright said the postmortem examination found there were in excess of 100 sites of injury to Mr Bowman's body.

He added: "Accepting that some may have been the result of ordinary knocks of everyday life, there were many injuries that were caused by the application of serious violence to his person."

He said pathologists found 26 lacerations to the head and neck, each representing a separate blow and each enforced while Mr Bowman was still alive.

Graham was arrested at his mother's address just before midnight on May 14.

Mr Wright told the court that over the course of two days Graham was interviewed by officers. He said: "It was only on October 15 that he signed his name to a document in which he admitted publicly for the first time that hehad indeed killed Simon Bowman."

Addressing the jurors, Mr Wright discussed the issues of the case and said that they must make the decision on whether or not the killing was in lawful self-defence and therefore committed no crime.

In a video interview played to the court, Naomi Charlton spoke of Graham, known as Chrissy.

She said that he and Mr Bowman had a close friendship. Naomi said: "They were like brothers. They would just have a laugh. They were nice to each other."

She said that in the early hours of May 13 'Chrissy' had contacted her to invite her round and said: "We've got loads of drink and loads of crack."

To which she had replied: "You need to get away from that stuff."

The trial continues.