Wearside businessman tells murder trial that he tried to stop attack

Murder accused Stephen Johnson denies killing a man on the holiday isle of Tenerife when he stepped in to try to stop a street fight.
Murder accused Stephen Johnson denies killing a man on the holiday isle of Tenerife when he stepped in to try to stop a street fight.
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A BUSINESSMAN on trial for murder has told a Spanish court how he was attacked after going to help a fellow Brit.

Stephen Johnson, who denies stabbing a man to death in Tenerife in 2008, was quizzed by state prosecutor Rafael Ruiz on the second day of the trial.

The 56-year-old, from Hetton, known as Stepy, insisted that he had simply become caught up in a confrontation that was nothing to do with him.

This contradicted the prosecution claim that he and co-defendant Bryan O’Connell deliberately killed the Morrocan victim during a late-night fight.

“I did not even know Bryan O’Connell well,” said Mr Johnson, who runs Stepys Coaches.

“We bumped into each other at the Stage Door bar where I was with my wife, niece and some other friends enjoying a drink. I saw two Moroccans having a go at him verbally in the bar and they were later ordered to leave by the owner.

“I was not involved in any way but I could see what was happening.

“Around 30 minutes later, when we were leaving the bar because it was closing, I saw Bryan – who had left before me – being attacked by the pair and I tried to stop the fight from getting worse.”

Mr Johnson said he saw the smaller of the two Moroccans head for rubbish bins nearby and come back with an object in his hands, which he used to strike him on the head.

“I was hit very hard, dazed and fell to the ground.

Blood was pouring from the wound and I was terrified.

“They continued to kick me and tried to grab my gold watch when I was down.

“One of the Moroccans then ran off and I got up and walked away to see where I could have my head treated.

“When I left, Bryan and the other Moroccan were still there.

“Around 20 minutes later, as I was heading along the road towards my apartment, I was detained by police but I had no idea anyone had been stabbed’.

Asked to explain why, in his initial statement to a judge in January 2008, he had described seeing his co-defendant carrying something behind his back as he confronted the Moroccans, Mr Johnson responded that the interpreter that day had “mistranslated his words”.

His account was challenged by the police inspector who led the initial investigation into the killing.

The officer said the Wearside grandfather had been “totally uncooperative from the beginning”.

He said: “We asked him repeatedly about the other man involved, who had been described to us by a witness at the scene, and he deliberately sent us off on a wild goose chase, with details of someone else called Brian.

“That false trail wasted our time and led us to a person who was totally unconnected with the incident.

“It was only later when we impressed on Mrs Johnson the seriousness of her husband’s situation did she, not him, tell us who the real Bryan was.”

Tense exchanges followed in the Courtroom 12 in Santa Cruz as it emerged that police had failed to follow up leads to the second Moroccan man, who disappeared, even though they were aware of his involvement from the outset.

Fernando Mesa, defending Stephen Johnson, said it was “inconceivable that the mysterious Moroccan could not be traced or identified during all this time”.


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