Sunderland murder accused 'heartbroken' by death of alleged victim
A man on trial for the murder of his lover who was found dead at his student flat has told jurors he is "heartbroken" by his death.
Aaron Ray is accused of killing Jason Brockbanks, who studied at Northumbria University, after finding sexual messages with other men on his phone last September.
Mr Brockbanks' body was discovered at his private student accommodation Mansion Tyne halls, Howard Street, in Newcastle, three days after he was killed by Ray last September, it is claimed.
Ray, 21, of Mayfield Road, Sunderland, denies the murder of Mr Brockbanks, 24, who was from Whitehaven, Cumbria, and was in his third-year at university.
He is being tried by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court and has said he picked up a knife and lashed out after Mr Brockbanks attacked him.
While in the witness box for the first time today, Ray, a former student who left university because he did not like online learning during the pandemic, was asked by his barrister Toby Hedworth KC how he felt, knowing his actions caused the death of a young man.
Ray said: "It makes me feel heartbroken. I can't imagine how hard it is for Jason's family."
Ray told jurors he and Mr Brockbanks had met last summer and he had told him he did not want an open relationship.
He added: "I had a suspicion, a feeling there was a bit of unfaithfulness going on on Jason's part.
"I don't know exactly, I think about a month before the incident happened, it will be on Snapchat, it's me asking if you are getting with other guys, I don't want that sort of thing, I don't want an open relationship."
Ray said he and Mr Brockbanks had gone out together on the evening before Mr Brockbanks died and he noticed a message from dating website Grindr pop up on his phone when they were on their way back.
He said this led to him kicking Mr Brockbanks in the leg as they were outside the student accommodation, about to go back in.
Ray told jurors: "When I kicked him, which is totally unacceptable, I admit that, I was getting frustrated because he was denying he had Grindr and had a message, when I quite clearly saw it was a Grindr notification.
"I said to him 'will you at least just be honest and tell me the truth' but he kept denying he had it.
"That's when I ended up kicking him, out of frustration, because I saw it with my own eyes and he was lying."
Ray said they went into the student flat and Mr Brockbanks prepared them a drink.
He added: "The mood in the room when we got back into room was okay, I was obviously a little bit upset because I saw the message on his phone outside.
"I was just a bit upset, it was more the fact he had lied more than that it was on there.
"I'd had my suspicions as well, what I had been saying before about him being unfaithful, had suddenly been realised by seeing that."
Ray told jurors while they were sitting on the bed, he saw another message come through onto Mr Brockbanks' phone, which he took into the bathroom.
He said he took images of Mr Brockbanks' phone onto his own phone, to prove what he had seen.
Ray said after that, he put Mr Brockbanks' phone back on the bed then another Grindr message, which was sexually explicit, popped up.
He told the court: "I showed him and said 'just don't lie anymore because I've been through your phone'.
"He pushed me off the bed and that's when I went down onto my knees.
"At that point I said 'you wouldn't like it if it was you' and it's at that point, as I described in interview, that's when he just lost it, he started punching into the back of my head and my neck area.
"I genuinely felt so scared. I had never seen him like that before.
"As he punched into my neck and the back of my head, I managed to look up and on the, where the TV is, I noticed the knife.
"Then I've grabbed the knife and made a slashing motion. He was standing up at that point.
"I tried to collect my stuff, as I've tried to leave, Jason pulled me by my waist and I fell backwards.
"As I tried to leave towards the door, he had been on the bed and has pulled me around the waist, I fell backwards onto him, with the knife."
Ray said he did not recall the knife going into Mr Brockbanks' side, which was the fatal injury.
He added: "The only thing I remember him saying to me after that was 'get out', that's the only thing I remember."
Ray told the court the whole thing was "very quick" and he did not think Mr Brockbanks was badly hurt when he left the flat.
When asked why he picked up the knife, Ray told the court: "Because I was fearful, as I say, he has never hit me in that fashion before and I was scared."
Ray said he found out Mr Brockbanks had died when the police arrived to arrest him for murder, days later, and added: "I was completely shocked, I didn't really know what they were talking about."
Jurors have heard it was on September 27 last year Mr Brockbanks was found dead inside his flat by an accommodation manager who had been asked to check on his welfare.
A postmortem examination revealed he had a stab wound to his right abdomen, which was fatal, and two knife injuries to his back.The trial continues.