A Carlisle man allegedly murdered was dumped into a city river after being lured to a city house and subjected to a savage torture beating over an unpaid drug debt, a jury has heard.
Lee McKnight is said to been the victim of a trap which was set to coax him to an address at Charles Street, off London Road, during the early hours of 24th July last year.
Carlisle Crown Court heard this afternoon how Mr McKnight was a “marked man” at the time and in significant arrears to fellow drug peddler Jamie Davison, who himself was being chased for money by “serious dealers from out of town”.
Davison, along with two other young men, allegedly meted out a brutal attack which began as soon as 26-year-old Mr McKnight walked through the front door, and rendered him unconscious.
Mr McKnight suffered appalling multiple injuries. A pathologist concluded he was still alive and took his “last shallow breaths” while placed face down in the River Caldew, in Carlisle’s Blackwell area, after being transported across the city in a black pick-up truck.
A livestock farmer made the gruesome discovery of Mr McKnight’s body — barefooted and partially wrapped in a curtain — in the water after hearing suspicious noises on his land and seeing a pick-up vehicle just before 5am.
“It will be for you to judge,” prosecutor Tim Cray QC, opening the case, told a jury, “but we suggest the injuries, not mincing words, make him look like he was a victim of torture.” He was “punched, kicked, stamped on over and over again”, suffering 36 lacerations to his head alone and sustaining other injuries “probably” caused while he was “secured in a chair”, the court heard. Many head injuries, the pathologist had found, were consistent with Mr McKnight having been beaten with the tough diamanté head of a riding crop.
Mr Cray revealed such a whip was “left behind” in a field near the river bank, and that the formal cause of death was head, neck and chest injuries, followed by drowning.
Six people are on trial and deny murder. It is alleged Davison, aged 26, of Beverley Rise, acted as a plan “organiser”, attacking Mr McKnight helped by the “extra muscle” of Arron Graham, also 26, of Blackwell Road, and 18-year-old Jamie Lee Roberts, of Grey Street, all Carlisle.
Coral Edgar, 26, is said to have lured Mr McKnight to a Charles Street address provided by her 47-year-old mother, Carol, whose black Nissan Navara was used to transport him to the river. Roberts’ father, Paul, aged 51, also of Grey Street, is alleged to have “provided back up” and “helped the attackers”, bringing changes of clothes and “helping with advice…in the last stages of this plan”.
“The chain of events that led to Lee’s death was caused by the joint and concerted efforts of these six defendants,” alleged Mr Cray. “Put simply, we say that what the defendants did shows that they cared not one jot for Lee’s life. The evidence will prove that they all shared the intent to do Lee really serious harm and therefore they are guilty of his murder.”
Mr Cray advised jurors to reach true verdicts according to all the evidence, including that provided by defendants in their defence; to put strong emotions aside; and to approach the issues “calmly and with open minds”.
The trial, which could last around eight weeks, continues.