A maintenance man on trial for the murder of a mum who was burned alive in her abandoned car has told jurors his accomplice has tried to have him killed in custody.
Stephen Unwin and William McFall, who are both already convicted murderers and met while serving life sentences, are accused of killing Quyen Nguyen after keeping her captive at a house for four hours where she was raped and forced to hand over bank details.
Unwin has told jurors he left McFall, known as John, alone with the victim at his home while he went to the shop for cigarettes and that the nail salon worker looked “dead” when he got back.
The 40-year-old has said he was in a relationship with the victim, who leased out rental properties and would hire him to do odd jobs, and had nothing to do with her death.
Miss Nguyen and her car were dumped and set on fire at a dirt track, while she was still “just alive” last August.
Jurors at Newcastle Crown Court have heard both men initially denied any involvement in Miss Nguyen’s death but now blame each other for her killing.
On his second day of giving evidence, Unwin has told jurors he has been the target of threats from his former friend McFall.
He told the court: “There has been an incident where he tried to blackmail me.
“He also tried to have me killed, which is why I was put in protective custody.”
Unwin claimed during his evidence that McFall has “confessed” to carrying out the killing while their trial has been ongoing.
He told jurors: “Even in the cells, he has been confessing in the cells.”
Unwin said prison guards have overheard the alleged confession but “won’t write statements”.
Jurors have seen a series of letters written by Unwin to McFall and McFall’s legal team in the weeks after the men were arrested, which talk about both of them being innocent.
Unwin has told jurors he was instructed by McFall to write the letters and about their content.
In one of the notes Unwin tells his accomplice: “I am always here for you and will be forever, ok”.
But Unwin has now told jurors from the witness box: “I have been played by McFall from day one.”
He added: “At that point, I was always there for him. Things have changed, dramatically.”
Jurors have heard Miss Nguyen’s body was found in her Audi A4 which was dumped and set on fire on a dirt track near Sunderland.
The 28-year-old nail salon worker may have been still alive when the blaze was started and could only be identified through dental records.
Unwin, 40, of St. Oswald’s Terrace, Houghton, and McFall, 51, of Waterloo Road, Blackpool, both deny rape and murder.
Jurors have heard Unwin was given a life sentence in 1999 for murder after he broke into a 73-year-old man’s home in Houghton Le Spring on Christmas Day in 1998 and attacked then stabbed him in the chest before starting three fires.
He was released in 2012.
The court heard McFall was jailed for life at Belfast Crown Court in April 1997 after he had broken into the home of 86-year-old Martha Gilmore, who had mobility problems, at Station Road, Greencastle and repeatedly hit her with a hammer in May 1996.
McFall was released on licence in 2010.
Both men deny the murder and rape of Miss Nguyen.
The trial continues.