A jury has been warned to beware of making circumstantial evidence fit a theory about who was responsible for the killing of Rugby father-of-three Jordon Banton.
Darrell Akins, 28, of Follager Road, Rugby, and Paul Clarke, 35, of Bluebell Close, Rugby, have both pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court to Mr Banton’s murder in July last year.
The jury has heard the 23-year-old father-of-three was shot as he sat in his Seat Leon car in Newton Road, near Rugby.
Two 12-bore shots were fired at him in broad daylight in front of passing motorists, and a third after his car swerved violently across the road and into a ditch.
Prosecutor Andrew Smith QC has alleged the shots were fired by Akins and that he was then driven from the scene in his hired Vauxhall Insignia car by Clarke.
But Adrian Redgrave QC, for Akins, told the jury: “All of you no doubt have close friends. Imagine for a moment that one close friend owed you money and was slow in paying you back.
“What are you going to do? Kill them?
“Quite apart from a man’s immortal soul, the balancing exercise makes no sense. What is on the plus side? Nothing. What is on the minus side? You won’t get your money and, more significantly, you’ve lost a close friend.
“The idea of Darrell Akins killing his close friend is, we submit, not only out of all proportion to any sort of motive, it’s way beyond the bounds of the way real life works.
“Someone clearly had a motive for killing Jordon Banton, but was it he? The case the prosecution offers against him is based entirely upon circumstantial evidence from which you are invited to draw inferences against him.
“Beware a one-track blinkered approach to circumstantial evidence which seeks to fit pieces of evidence into a theory.”
Of an incident in Banbury the night before Mr Banton was shot, witness Warwick Alexander has said Akins brandished a shotgun out of the Insignia towards a young man in a nearby house.
Mr Alexander said he and Clarke went in the Insignia, driven by Jamie Hoggins-Preston, while Akins rode there on his motorbike with another friend before getting in the car where Mr Alexander said he saw him with the gun.
But Mr Hoggins-Preston said all five travelled in the Insignia driven by Akins and ‘made no mention at all about a gun.’
Mr Redgrave commented: “One or both of Hoggins-Preston and Alexander did commit perjury in this court, and one or both lied in the witness statements they made.”
Of Mr Alexander’s evidence, he said: “It went on lie after lie. Fiction has a place in life, and he may one day be a best-seller, but fiction in the course of something as serious as this is unforgivable.
“So how is it you’re invited to rely on that author of fiction? Why are you to rely on the word of a man who has already proved himself to be a liar?
“What he’s saying is that Darrell Akins and Aiden Henry travelled down on that motorcycle carrying a shotgun; down the road from Rugby to Banbury with a shotgun. Or are they have supposed to have parked the Yamaha in his auntie’s front garden and he then picked up the shotgun from the garden?
“Then what happened to the gun after it’s supposed to have been in the car? It didn’t stay in the car, says Warwick Alexander. Either it was put back in his auntie’s front garden or it made its way on the motorcycle back to Rugby.
“That evidence of Mr Warwick lying Alexander is presented to you as evidence supporting a charge of murder.”
Mr Redgrave said both circumstantial and direct evidence on the day of the murder ‘requires careful consideration.’
He said after early texts from Akins to Mr Banton about the Banbury matter, texts prior to the shooting were about money, and he posed the question: “If you have a disagreement with a close friend about money, are you going to kill him?”
There were calls from Akins to Mr Banton at 11.38 and 11.39 – just a minute before he was shot.
“Those calls, he’s told you, were made when he was at Main Street, and the cell site evidence is consistent with that.
“It’s also consistent with the phone being nearer the scene of the murder, but in these courts people who are accused do not have to prove their innocence.
“If he’s at Main Street, it is impossible for him to have been at the scene of the murder at 11.40. It’s a two-minute drive, and you know from eye witness evidence the two vehicles must have been there for some little time for the events surrounding the killing.”
Mr Redgrave pointed out that eye witness Dennis Jones said the door of the getaway car was open and had two-tone trim – but Akins’ car had a black interior.
That witness also described the gunman as clean-shaven, but Akins had, and still has, a trimmed beard.
Another witness described the getaway car as having dull paintwork and being the size of a Mazda 323, compared to Akins’s Insignia which he said was larger and shiny.
And of a shotgun cartridge found on a wardrobe at Akins’ home, which Akins said he did not know was there, Mr Redgrave said there was not DNA or fingerprint to link him to it.
Michael Holland QC, for Clarke, said: “Why do we say he is not guilty? First, he has said he’s not guilty. When he does that, he requires the prosecution to prove the case.
“He’s not guilty because the prosecution has not produced the evidence even to show he was there. There is no witness that says that, no scientific evidence which suggests that; nothing.
“The prosecution say they can’t even say who the gunman was; they can’t say who the driver was. If they don’t know who is who, where is their case? The fact that the prosecution presents it in that way shown how weak it is in analysis.”
Of Mr Jones’s evidence, he suggested the prosecution had to prove its own witness was unreliable because, said Mr Holland, his description of the gunman did not match either defendant.
In relation to other witnesses, he argued: “Of all their key witnesses the prosecution are forced to say they are liars or they are unreliable.
“In [TV programme] Broadchurch it was said you build a case brick by brick until you have a solid wall of evidence. Every brick the prosecution are trying to make against Paul Clarke is made of straw.
“Who says Paul Clarke was at Newton Road? Nobody. What scientific evidence puts him there? None.”
The trial continues.