SIMON BIRCH MURDER TRIAL: Christmas Day host slit throat of guest at family gathering, jury told

A Christmas Day host slit the throat of one of his guests and killed him after trouble flared at the family gathering, murder jurors have heard.

Businessman Adam Jenkins cut Simon Birch's neck with a kitchen knife and caused unsurvivable injuries on December 25 last year, prosecutors claim. Newcastle Crown Court heard Jenkins, a "successful" 35-year-old construction company boss had hosted a Christmas Day family event at his "large" home, which was set in its own land, in Newbottle, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear.

The guests included a number of family members including Jenkins' own partner, his mum, step-dad, father, brother and his sister Emma Jenkins, with her partner Mr Birch, 39. Prosecutor Jamie Hill QC told the court the Christmas dinner was hosted in the main house and that followed karaoke and games in a purpose-built, separate bar and games room building within the grounds.

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Mr Hill said some of the adults had been drinking for most of the day and exactly how or why the trouble started remains unclear. But he told the court: "It was late on Christmas Day last year when trouble erupted at a family gathering in Newbottle.

A police investigation was launched after the death of Mr Birch.

"The defendant in this case Adam Jenkins was the host of that Christmas Day gathering. He didn't start the trouble but he brought it to a tragic and emphatic end by cutting the throat of his sister's boyfriend. "We say that when he did that he acted deliberately, he acted unlawfully and he acted with the necessary intent for murder."

The killing was captured on CCTV and footage has been shown to jurors. Jenkins, of Sunderland Road, Newbottle, denies murder and is being tried by a jury.

Mr Hill told jurors there had been some "volatility" in the relationship between Emma Jenkins and Mr Birch and Jenkins may have been "something of a peacemaker" in the past. The court it was around 9.15pm that night when Jenkins left the party in the bar, possibly "upset" over something which may have been said by his mother and he went to bed, in the main house.

Mr Hill said shortly after that an argument developed between Jenkins' step-dad and Mr Birch, which seemed to be over quickly and was over something"childish" such as who could beat who in a fight.

Simon Birch.

Mr Hill told the court: "The argument and what happened subsequently varies according to which family member you might be listening to at the time." He added: "However childish, the day, which had gone reasonably well, was starting to turn sour."

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Mr Hill said CCTV showed some potential "ill feeling" between Emma Jenkins and Mr Birch and she appeared to push him away. The court heard Emma Jenkins was then put to bed in one room and Mr Birch put in another bedroom, both in the main house.

Meanwhile, the court heard Jenkins' step-dad appeared to be too drunk to get upstairs at the house by himself. Mr Hill told the court: "He appears to have fallen over, despite help from more than one of the women who were trying to get him to go to bed. This activity had the unwelcome affect of disturbing Mr Birch, who had been put in the spare room."

The court heard after he was woken up, Mr Birch looked for and found his partner in another room and she later told police he "struck her in some way". Mr Hill said the couple ended up on the landing of the main house and the disturbance then woke Jenkins.

He added: "The defendant's sister ran downstairs screaming. She was followed by Simon Birch and it seems chaos now ensued." The court Jenkins also went downstairs and his partner, who had been trying to prevent trouble breaking out, tried to separate Miss Jenkins and Mr Birch, who were "tussling" in the living room.

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Mr Hill said it was difficult and unnecessary to prove "who hit who and when" during the trouble in the living room but there was suggestions Mr Birchpunched Jenkins and Jenkins pushed Mr Birch over. Mr Hill added: "Mr Birch, it seems, may have thrown a toy, a Christmas present, at the defendant. The suggestion is they were punching or trying to punch each other."

The court heard Jenkins ended up being ushered away into the kitchen by his partner and at some stage his sister Miss Jenkins suffered a cut to her head,which may have been caused by a punch from Mr Birch or a fall. CCTV showed Mr Birch left the house through the front door at 11.18pm and Jenkins left through a side door.

Mr Hill said: "We say he had armed himself with three knives. CCTV shows him crossing a patio area and climbing over a low wall to get to Mr Birch. As he does this, we ask you to look in his left hand, where we say he has three knives. He appears to select one of those knives and he then holds the kitchen knife he has selected in his right hand.

"We say that however badly behaved Mr Birch may have been inside the house he was not at that point posing any kind of threat to anyone. He was standing in the yard alone and obviously unarmed. You will see he has his arms out to his side, with his palms extended and exposed, showing he hasnothing in his hands.

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"You will see Mr Jenkins didn't pause as he went toward Mr Birch, there may have been a brief exchange of words, as he closed on Mr Birch but almostinstantly you will see the defendant drawing the knife, quickly and firmly across the left side of the throat of Mr Birch. He caused unsurvivable injuries."

The court heard Mr Birch's jugular vein and carotid artery were cut with the weapon. Mr Hill said Jenkins was shocked, upset and crying during a 999 call made after the attack but his reaction was to "lie" and claim Mr Birch had tried to stab him.

He later said he had no memory of what exactly happened and only remembered parts of the incident. The trial continues.