A jury has heard what is alleged to have been the steady but inexorable build-up to the murder of a young Rugby dad who was shot in the head at close range.
The prosecution at Warwick Crown Court detailed a series of texts which had been sent between victim Jordon Banton and one of his alleged killers, Darrell Akins.
Akins, 28, of Follager Road, Rugby, and Paul Clarke, 35, of Bluebell Close, Rugby, have pleaded not guilty to the murder of 23-year-old Mr Banton in July last year.
Prosecutor Andrew Smith QC told the jury: “At 11.40 in the morning on the 25th of July last year, in a country lane near Rugby, three shots were fired from a shotgun in the space of 17 seconds.
“Those shots brought with them the murder of Jordon Banton, who died from a shotgun wound to his head from close distance. The prosecution say these two defendants were responsible for the murder.”
Mr Smith said Mr Banton, who on the day of his death was driving a red Seat Leon he had bought two days earlier, had had a close friendship with Akins over a number of years, and Clarke was a close friend of Akins.
At the time Akins was driving a light metallic grey-blue Vauxhall Insignia which he was renting on a weekly basis, although he also often rode a motorcycle.
In July last year Mr Banton, who lived in Spellow Close, Rugby, with his partner Sarah Nicholson and their three children, was a close friend of Kalisha Cole, speaking to her every day and confiding in her.
Miss Cole, who lived in Banbury, had a younger brother Leon, who also knew Akins and Mr Banton.
In early July Mr Banton was with Kalisha when he had a call from Akins complaining that Leon was being ‘cheeky and disrespectful’ – and when Mr Banton said to leave Leon alone, Akins told him: “We’ll sort it out in Rugby.”
“There was plainly some tension building,” said Mr Smith, who pointed out that one of Jordon Banton’s friends, Jamie Hoggins-Preston, knew he owed Akins ‘a lot of money.’
On July 24 Akins drove around for a number of hours with Clarke, Mr Hoggins-Preston, Aiden Henry and Warwick Alexander in the Insignia, during which he was heard arguing over the phone with people who lived in Banbury who made a threat to go to his mother’s home.
“He was furious and could not be calmed down, and he drove with others to Banbury. Mr Akins was by now arguing with someone called Leon, and said that whatever had happened in Banbury had something to do with Jordon Banton.
“Warwick Alexander had never seen Darrell Akins as angry as he was that evening, but eventually the group of men returned to Rugby,” said Mr Smith, who observed that CCTV cameras showed them going to a pizza take-away in Clifton Road at around 1am.
“These escalating tensions were once again events that concerned Leon Cole. His sister learned of it and made contact with Darrell Akins.”
It was said that Akins told her: “Your brother is getting pumped up by Jordon.”
And when she told him he ‘should not be playing with guns,’ Akins responded: “Whatever, Kalisha. Get off the phone. You’re only a girl. Whatever’s happening is happening.”
Akins then dropped off Mr Hoggins-Preston, telling him he would see him at 4.30 that morning because they were supposed to have been working in Manchester – but Akins failed to turn up.
Mr Smith said Akins had a son with a woman from Bilton, and although they were no longer in a relationship, they saw each other regularly – and he spent that night at her home.
He left later that morning before returning with Clarke after receiving a text and a short phone call from Mr Banton.
At around 11.20 that morning the mother of Akins’s child left to take their son to the doctor’s in Brownsover, and on her way she saw Mr Banton’s red Seat heading towards Newton Road – which Mr Smith pointed out was ‘the scene of the shooting.’
“Having seen and recognised Mr Banton, she tried to ring Mr Akins to tell him she had seen Jordon, but he did not answer his phone, so she sent him a text.”
A few minutes earlier Miss Nicholson and Mr Banton had been at their home when he had received a text message and sent a reply before telling her he was ‘going out to sort something.’
And Mr Smith told the jury: “The journey from Spellow Close to Newton Road would take in the region of four-and-a-half minutes, and the journey to there about two minutes.
“This is a journey the prosecution say Mr Banton took alone in his red Seat, and the same journey was being made to Newton Road by Mr Akins and Mr Clarke in the Insignia.
“That came against what the prosecution suggests is a highly significant series of texts from Mr Akins to Mr Banton.”
In a text to Akins at 10.56 Mr Banton said: “He had a lot to say for himself, and I’m sorry for getting you involved in this bull****, even though it has nothing to do with me either.”
Akins responded: “Obviously what these men do is to do with you, but now [you say] you’re not involved.”
A few seconds later Akins sent: “So where are you then?”
Mr Banton sent another text asking him to stop texting him and to leave him alone.
That was not an answer Akins wanted to hear, and in the minutes which followed Akins sent two further texts, the first of which began: “Blood, come link me now.”
And Mr Smith said the prosecution say the ‘translation’ of the full message was: “Come and meet me now. It’s that simple because you must think I’m a d***head. I want my money now.”
The next message showed Akins was obviously angry and determined to meet Mr Banton, said Mr Smith.
And he added: “The two men then exchanged four calls between 11.31 and 11.38. By the time this last call ended Mr Banton had only two minutes left to live.”
The trial continues.