Lee Jay Hatley murder trial: Alleged killer Bradley Wood 'stabbed best friend by accident in scuffle'
PUBLISHED: 15:36 23 November 2017 | UPDATED: 21:43 23 November 2017
Lee Jay Hatley's alleged murderer accidentally knifed him in a "scuffle", a court heard today.
Dad-of-one Mr Hatley, 29, was stabbed to death in Westcliff House, Baxter Road, Canonbury, in the early hours of June 26.
Bradley Wood, 25, of no fixed abode, is accused of murdering Mr Hatley, who he described at the Old Bailey today as his best friend.
Wood stood in the dock as the defence’s case opened today. He claimed that after jokingly threatening to slash the tyres on Mr Hatley’s bicycle, Mr Hatley “flipped” and attacked him.
In the ensuing scuffle, Wood said that because he was still holding the knife, he accidentally stabbed him as they grappled. Mr Hatley had 29 wounds. Lauren Egan-Perkins, whose bedroom the incident happened in, also sustained stab wounds while asleep.
A sobbing Wood, who at the time had only been out of prison for three weeks, admitted he panicked on hearing police sirens and left his friend as he lay dying.
Under cross-examination from his defence lawyer Nicholas Rhodes, Wood, dressed in a white shirt and black tie, had explained how close Mr Hatley and his family were to his heart.
“We became friends at 12 or 13,” Wood told the court. “We’re from the same area. I was homeless. I was sleeping rough. I spent time at his home, with his family. They showed me affection and kindness. Our friendship continued. I had come out of prison and went to see how he was, and see his little son. There was no one I would talk to apart from Lee Jay.”
On June 23, he met up with Mr Hatley, Ms Egan-Perkins and Mr Hatley’s friend Louis Rooney in Highbury Fields, where they drank and smoked cannabis. Wood was meeting Ms Egan-Perkins for the first time. “He had talked about Lauren before,” he said. “He basically fancied her and said they had a connection.”
On June 25, as the court heard on Tuesday, the same group spent the night at Ms Egan-Perkins’ flat in Westcliff House, Baxter Road, Canonbury. Again, they were drinking and smoking cannabis.
“It was a good atmosphere,” Wood, a former Islington Council worker, told the court. “No disharmony. We were drinking. I explained to them I didn’t want to drink as I had been drunk that weekend and had a probation meeting the next morning. She [Ms Egan-Perkins] kept saying ‘have a shot’ and I basically gave in and had one.
“Lauren went to bed. She seemed very drunk. She wasn’t capable of walking properly, or speaking. Louis left about half and hour later. Me and Lee Jay were together in the living room. We had a little talk about life. He carried on drinking and smoking. I only took two puffs, his spliff was too big. I felt alright, it was a good mood, but I wanted to go home.
“I said I was going to leave him, but Louis was asking to go to his. I wanted to go to sleep, and Louis explained he had a bed. I told Lee Jay to hurry up. It was 1.45am. It was still good between me and Lee Jay. He went into the girl’s bedroom for five or 10 minutes. I opened the door slightly and asked: ‘What’s going on? We going or what?’ He told me to get the bike from the balcony and get ready. I did exactly that.
“I waited. At the dining table, about five minutes. I went back to the door: ‘Lee, what’s going on, I’ve got probation.’ I could see him, facing the bed with his phone in his hand. I was trying to rush him, to hurry him up. He told me to go and wait. He shoo’d me away. He went into the kitcken to write the letter which I now know he wrote to Lauren, and went back into the bedroom.
“I put my glass in the sink...”
At this point, Wood started crying. He didn’t stop during the rest of his testimony.
“...and I saw a knife on the draining board. I was going to wind him up about his bike. He had this really expensive BMW bike. I took the knife, opened the door and made a gesture towards the bike in the hallway. I said: ‘If you don’t come now, I’ll test out the tyres. I wasn’t going to do it [slash the tyres]. He flipped at me.”
Wood continued: “He was aggressive. I remember him trying to reach for the knife. I pushed him back. He grabbed my head and pulled me forwards with my head down. At that stage we started scuffling.
“I had never had a fight with Lee Jay. I was scared through shock. I didn’t think he’d react like that. I remember hitting him into the unit with the TV on and it fell to the floor. I pushed him to the bed, he tried to throw me to the floor. I pushed him again. He was holding onto my arm, the one I was holding the knife.”
Mr Rhodes asked: “Did it cross your mind you were stabbing him?” Wood, through more sobs, replied: “No. I was scared, the way he went at me.”
Mr Rhodes: “Did you intend to kill him?” Wood: “No.”
Mr Rhodes: “Can you explain how you stabbed him 29 times?” Wood: “No. He kept grabbing me. I was trying to calm him down.”
Mr Rhodes: “Did it occur to you he was seriously injured?” Wood: “No.”
Wood continued: “He was saying: ‘Bradders stop, Bradders stop.’ I let go of him and turned the light on. I didn’t think he was bleeding like that. And blood was coming from her neck. She was fighting against me. I didn’t realise Lee Jay was as injured as he was. He’s a soldier, he got up. He said: ‘You’ve done me.’ I said: ‘What do you mean?’ He said: ‘All over.’
“I told him to strip down. I remember trying to hold the girl. He kept saying: ‘I can’t lift my arm.’ I couldn’t say where he was injured as there was blood all over. Both of them were screaming for help. He left for the neighbour’s. I was trying to hold the girl up. She was screaming and wailing around. He was shouting my name. I dropped her and went outside.”
Mr Hatley said he couldn’t breathe, Wood told the court, so he ran back into the flat to get his asthma medication. When he couldn’t find it, he came back outside asking Mr Hatley to help him, the court heard – but he said Ms Egan-Perkins then slammed the door on him.
Wood continued, through sobs: “We were on the balcony. I ran. I was scared. I’d just come out of jail. I left my friend. I didn’t think to call an ambulance.
“I got on my bike. Lee Jay’s bag was on my handlebars. I came out of Mitchison Road, onto Essex Road and into Ockendon Road. I came halfway down the road into someone’s garden and broke down. I took my jumper off and had blood on my hands.
“I couldn’t think. I rang my dad and said: ‘I’ve been involved in a madness.’ Him and his friend came. My head was all over the place. He didn’t look at me, just coerced me into a van. I didn’t tell him it was Lee Jay. He said: ‘You’re not coming into my house – f*** off.’”
Wood stayed in a van in some garages off Liverpool Road. The next morning, Wood said, “my dad and his mate told me everything was going to be alright – and told me to f*** off to Northampton”.
The court heard Wood stayed with a friend in the town for four days. He claims he didn’t know about Lee Jay’s death [which occurred in the evening on June 26] until June 30. At this point, Wood contacted his solicitor and was told to hand himself in at Islington police station.
Under cross-examination from prosecutor Duncan Atkinson, Wood was asked why he fled the scene.
“I wasn’t exactly in the right frame of mind,” he replied. “I self-preserved. I panicked. That’s what caused my friend to die. I keep thinking about it every day. Every day I feel guilty.
“I have come to get a potential life sentence. I want his family to believe me. Everyone has questioned me: ‘Why did he kill his friend?’ I can’t allow that to be the situation. I have to be punished, I understand, but I didn’t mean for him to die.”
Mr Atkinson referred to previous evidence in the case, which suggested Wood was jealous of his friend Mr Hatley.
Wood responded: “He was 29, smoking cannabis morning to night, not checking on his baby. I wasn’t jealous. I had more going for me than he did.
“The Friday before [two days before the incident] his mum told me: ‘Please, take him out.’ His mum said he was going mad: ‘He ripped a door out and threw it at me.’ I was asked by his mum to speak to him.
“I am here to get my side across. I don’t think you understand what friendship we had. It was more than friends.”
Wood denies Mr Hatley’s murder, the attempted murder of Ms Egan-Perkins and another charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
The trial continues.