Stefan Appleton murder trial: Alleged machete killer claims Stefan ‘went to stab me first’

Stefan Appleton (Picture: Met Police)

Stefan Appleton (Picture: Met Police) - Credit: Archant

The alleged machete killer of Stefan Appleton this afternoon claimed he stabbed the teenager in self-defence after Stefan pulled a knife.

Floral tributes were laid in June last year in Caldy Walk, Canonbury, where Stefan Appleton collapse

Floral tributes were laid in June last year in Caldy Walk, Canonbury, where Stefan Appleton collapsed after being stabbed. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

And he said he had found the weapon he used to kill Stefan in a bush just hours before the attack.

He told the Old Bailey a group of boys “went crazy” at him when he entered Nightingale Park, Canonbury, to retrieve his “stolen” mountain bike during a summer evening last year.

The 17-year-old “Defendant Two”, who cannot be named for legal reasons, claims he lashed out with a machete to protect himself after Stefan “went to stab me”.

Stefan, 17, was stabbed to death in the park on June 10. The prosecution alleges he was killed after being caught up in a gang dispute.

Last week, the court was told two 17-year-old boys had travelled to the park on a moped shortly before the incident. Defendant One stayed on the moped, it was claimed, while Defendant Two allegedly jumped off and chased Stefan, stabbing him after he tripped over a fence. Both boys deny murder.

Today, as the defence opened its case, Defendant Two denied this version of events.

Stefan Appleton pictured in February 2014. Picture: Appleton family

Stefan Appleton pictured in February 2014. Picture: Appleton family - Credit: Archant

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He told the jury: “When we first drove in Nightingale Road I looked right and noticed some boys in an alleyway. We went back around and I noticed a bike on the ground that looked like mine: it was grey, had suspension and was a Carrera.”

Sallie Bennett-Jenkins, defending “Two”, then asked what happened when he got off the moped being driven by “One”. Defendant Two said he did not get a knife out of his trousers as alleged by the prosecution.

“At first the boys in the alley were just chilling against the wall, hanging about,” he said. “I walked into the alleyway. I saw the bike that I thought was mine. The intention was to grab it. No one was holding it.

“Someone called out, saying: ‘Who’s that?’ I turned around to face them as they approached me. I asked where the boy who took my bike was.

“They went crazy. They got really angry, shouting ‘what, what’ repeatedly. That’s when they pulled out knives. They started swinging and stabbing at me.

“I was panicking, scared. I took the sheath out and started swinging. They didn’t stop. I looked back and saw three other boys. I saw the black boy going for his knife.”

Nightingale Park in Canonbury, where Stefan Appleton received a fatal blow to the chest with a mache

Nightingale Park in Canonbury, where Stefan Appleton received a fatal blow to the chest with a machete. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Asked by Ms Bennett-Jenkins who “the black boy” was, Defendant Two replied: “It was Stefan.”

He continued: “I realised they were trying to trap me in. I realised I was going to die. That’s when I started running towards the gate.

“He [Stefan] was pulling his left hand on his waist line using his right to get his knife out. He tripped, and I tripped onto him.

“He got straight up and went for his knife. He went to stab me. I lashed out once. It all happened so fast.”

Ms Bennett-Jenkins said: “It’s being suggested Stefan was stabbed four or five times. Did you stab him while he was lying on the floor?” Defendant Two responded: “No.”

“I was trying to scare him away from me,” he continued. “I didn’t know the knife had hit him at that point. I was terrified. I just wanted to get back to [Defendant One].”

Earlier, Defendant Two had told the court his bike was stolen on the morning of June 4, when he was running late for a GCSE exam at school. He said he was rushing across a park on the mountain bike in the moments before the theft.

“I saw a boy looking at me,” he told the court. “I didn’t think who it was. He ran at me with the knife. I was in high gear so I couldn’t accelerate away from him. I got off my bike. He laughed at me and took it.

“I told my friends what happened. They asked me what he looked like and from my description they said it was someone from Essex Road.”

On June 10, the day of Stefan’s death, Defendant Two said he played football with friends in Highbury in the afternoon.

At about 4pm, he went to the Mayville Estate in Hackney, near the Islington border, to “hang around” with friends outside a block. A group of boys were “joyriding” on a “ped” (moped) at the time, he added.

At about 4.50pm, Defendant Two said he received a call from Defendant One, at which point “Two” told “One” about the moped.

When “One” arrived 20 minutes later, the moped had been hidden due to a police helicopter hovering nearby. “One” then suggested taking it to look for the stolen bike.

“We were thinking anywhere around Essex Road,” Defendant Two told the court. “I thought I would need a knife to get my bike back and scare him off – the same thing that happened to me in the park.

“I got the knife from a bush in Mayville. I had seen knives hidden in bushes and saw that one in a sheath.”

Defendants One and Two, both from the Islington area, also deny a charge of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm - alongside another boy aged 16 from Hertfordshire [Defendant Three].

The trial continues.