The man accused of killing Rugby dad Jordon Banton with a shotgun has told a jury that at the time his car, which was seen by an eye witness, was being used by a friend.
Questioned by his barrister during his trial at Warwick Crown Court, Darrell Akins twice insisted he had not killed the 23-year-old father-of-three in July last year.
Akins, 28, of Follager Road, Rugby, and Paul Clarke, 35, of Bluebell Close, Rugby, have both pleaded not guilty to Mr Banton’s murder on July 25.
The court has heard two 12-bore shots were fired as Mr Banton sat in his Seat Leon car in Newton Road, near Rugby – and a third after it then swerved violently into a ditch.
The gunman, said to have been Akins, then got back into Akins’ hired Vauxhall Insignia car and was driven away, allegedly by Clarke, prosecutor Andrew Smith QC has told the jury.
Giving evidence, Akins, who said he had been born in America but moved here when he was two, agreed with his barrister Adrian Redgrave QC that he and Mr Banton had been close friends.
On the night before the shooting he and others, including Clarke, had gone to Banbury, with Clarke and two others travelling in the Insignia while Akins rode there on his motorbike.
Asked the reason, he said it was to check on his mother’s house after receiving a phone call from someone saying that a young man, Leon Cole, was going to go to her house.
Akins said when they got there he left his bike at his aunt’s home and got into the Insignia.
“We went up towards my mom’s. We just drove past to see if anyone was around, but it seemed alright to me.”
Mr Redgrave said Warwick Alexander, who had been in the Insignia, ‘has claimed you produced a gun which he described as something like three feet or so long inside the Insignia and were pointing it at someone. Was there any gun?” Akins replied: “No.”
After driving past his mother’s, he said the cars stopped at the bottom of the street and he got into the car of another friend who had joined them and went to where Leon Cole lived.
Asked if anything happened, Akins, who was said to have pointed the gun at Cole, said: “I saw Leon hanging out of the window. I shouted up to him ‘what’s all this business about my mom’s house?’ and he asked me why I was outside his house.”
Akins, who agreed he had a call from Jordon asking what was going on with Leon, said he then drove past his mother’s home again before collecting the motorbike and returning to Rugby.
He spent the night at his ex-partner Charlotte Flear’s home in Rugby, and the next morning met up with Clarke before they returned to her home at about 10 or 10.30.
Akins said that at around 11.20 Miss Flear left to take their young child to the doctor’s, and while Akins was still at her home he received a call from a friend called Lowks.
“He asked if he could borrow the car. If I weren’t using it and someone wanted to use it, I’d let them.”
So he said he agreed he could use the car, and Lowks came to collect it ‘not long after Charlotte left.’
Mr Redgrave asked whether he exchanged calls and texts with Jordon Banton between just before 11am and 11.38.
He accepted he had and that in one text at 11.26 he had told Mr Banton that he wanted his money, which Mr Banton owed him.
Asked about another text a minute later, he said: “I was asking Jordon to meet me to give me my money. It was me asking him what are you being like this for.”
Asked the meaning of a further phrase in the text, Akins said it meant: “If you’re not going to come and meet me I’ll come and get the money off you.”
Mr Redgrave asked him bluntly: “Did you drive to Newton and kill Jordon Banton?” Akins responded: “No, I never.”
He said that while he was still at Miss Flear’s home he had another call from Lowks saying he was in Phipps Avenue and that the Insignia would not start, which Akins said was a problem he had had with the remote key.
“He asked if I’d go to see him. I said I’d call him back. I needed to call Charlotte to see if she’d give me a lift.”
Akins said that call did not get through because, he thought, she was still at the doctor’s; but he and Clarke managed to get a lift to Phipps Avenue with a lad he knew.
“I jumped in the Insignia and the steering wheel was stiff and it wouldn’t start. I called Charlotte again and asked her to come and meet me by the Hillmorton shops.”
It is alleged by the prosecution that the call was made after he and Clarke had abandoned the car after the shooting.
She did collect them, and Akins said he later went for a tattoo appointment in Banbury, followed in her car by Miss Flear and their child, then they went to Bicester for something to eat.
While they were there he had a phone call from a friend, and asked if he was told about Jordon’s death, Akins replied: “No, he just said something had happened to him and asked where I was.”
But he then had a call from Jordon’s mother, and said: “She told me something had happened to Jordon and that he was dead or something.
“I said I’d heard something but that I wasn’t certain about what had happened but that my name was being called out, and she said that was what she’d heard. I told her I was out of town and that when I got back I’d pop down to see her.”
He said the following day he was ‘feeling a bit worried’ because he learned that people had been trying to kick his door in, so when Clarke said he was going to Cardiff for a couple of days, he went with him.
After they were arrested in Cardiff, Akins was interviewed by the police on four occasions and, apart from an initial denial of killing Jordon, made no comment – and he explained: “After speaking to my solicitor, that’s what I was advised to do.”
Mr Redgrave concluded: “I will ask you once more. Did you kill Jordon Banton?” Again Akins replied: “No, I never.”
Mr Smith put to Akins that there was heavy phone and text contact between him and Mr Banton in the last hour-and-a-half of Jordon’s life, with 36 separate contacts between them.
“The very last contact between you was at 11.38 and 42 seconds. That call from you to him lasted nine seconds. Three minutes later Jordon Banton was dead. What were you saying to him?” Akins said he could not remember what that call was about.
He accepted some of the calls and texts were about him wanting his money ‘NOW’ and asking where Mr Banton was. The trial continues.