Stefan Appleton murder trial: Victim ‘played football with boy accused of killing him’

Stefan Appleton pictured in February 2014. Picture: Appleton family

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

One of the boys accused of murdering Stefan Appleton used to play football with the teenager, a court heard this afternoon.

Nightingale Park in Canonbury, where Stefan Appleton was killed last year. Picture: Ken Mears

Nightingale Park in Canonbury, where Stefan Appleton was killed last year. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

The 17-year-old “Defendant One” told the Old Bailey: “He was alright.”

Stefan, 17, was stabbed to death in Nightingale Park, Canonbury, on June 10 last year.

The prosecution alleges “One” drove a moped to the park, where his friend, “Defendant Two”, jumped off and chased after and killed Stefan, who lived in the nearby Marquess Estate.

Both boys, who are from the Islington area but cannot be named for legal reasons, deny murder. The defence claims they went to the park to retrieve a bike that had been stolen at knifepoint from “Two” six days earlier – allegedly by one of Stefan’s friends from the Essex Road area – and that “Two” used the knife in self-defence.

“One” said this afternoon: “I knew Stefan through playing football in Rosemary Gardens [pitches on the Islington/Hackney border] and Arsenal Kicks [a club community scheme to keep young people away from anti-social behaviour].

“I never had any problems with him. He was alright.

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“There were sessions a few times a week, but I went to more than him. I thought he was from Hoxton. The last time I saw him was in Rosemary the year before, in 2014.”

“One”, wearing jeans and pale blue Oxford shirt, this afternoon answered questions from his defence barrister, James Scobie, about why they travelled to Nightingale Park.

The court heard the two boys set off on a moped, which they knew to have been stolen by others, in the Mayville Estate. This was where “Two” picked up a large machete from a bush, the court heard on Friday.

Stefan Appleton (Picture: Met Police)

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

“One” said today: “Basically, I was to drive ‘Two’ to the Essex Road area so he could look for his bike. The knife was there just in case, so he wasn’t robbed again.

“If they weren’t keen on giving the bike back, it was a last resort to scare them.

“When I first saw it, I was quite stunned. It looks vicious. It was quite scary. My first thought was: ‘Oh my days, that’s a big knife.’

“I was there to make sure that if anything went wrong, he could get away quick. I didn’t think anyone would get hurt.”

When the two boys drove past an alleyway leading to Nightingale Park, “Two” said he saw a bike similar to his on the floor.

“There was a group of eight boys and I was a little intimidated. They weren’t doing anything but it was a large group, so I turned right into Church Road. ‘Two’ told me he thought he saw his bike and wanted me to drive back round.

“I stopped in the first parking bay near the alley, facing Arran Walk. ‘Two’ got off the moped towards the alleyway. The engine was still on – there were a lot of boys and I felt better with it running.

“He walked into the alleyway. That’s the truth. The boys weren’t doing anything – they were normal. There was no aggression. As he walked to them, he wasn’t holding a knife [as alleged by the prosecution].

“Two boys walked over to him, talking. I couldn’t hear what was being said. Nothing seemed to be wrong but a few more came close to him and appeared confrontational.

“One [of them] prepared to pick up a wooden plank. Defendant Two ended up getting chased into the alleyway. I was worried, then three of them came towards me.

“I moved up the road, turned round and saw ‘Two’ running out of the alley. The three boys turned towards him. He had the knife upright and they got out his way.

“He was shouting at me to go. I could see something was wrong because he had the knife out and I knew that was the last resort. I could feel his panic.”

He then drove to the Mayville Estate, “One” told the court.

Before the afternoon’s session ended, Mr Scobie asked: “I have one last question. Was that true?”

Defendant One replied: “That’s the truth.”

The two boys, alongside 16-year-old “Defendant Three”, also face a charge of intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

The trial continues.