The partner of murdered father Jordon Banton has said he ‘did not appear worried or bothered’ when he left their home just minutes before he was shot in the head in broad daylight.
A jury at Warwick Crown Court has heard that the 23-year-old was shot with a shotgun at close range in front of eyewitnesses in July last year.
The prosecution has alleged three shots from a 12-bore shotgun were fired at Mr Banton as he sat in his Seat Leon car in Newton Road, near Rugby, by Darrell Akins, while Paul Clarke acted as get-away driver.
But Akins, 28, of Follager Road, Rugby, and Clarke, 35, of Bluebell Close, Rugby, have both pleaded not guilty to the murder of the father-of-three on July 25 last year.
Mr Banton’s partner Sarah Nicholson said in a statement read to the jury that they had suffered years of harassment from the father of her oldest child, who Jordon raised as his own son.
She said they had been together for six years, adding: “I would describe our relationship as perfect. I could not fault him in any way.”
Mr Banton, who made some money from buying and selling cars, would look after their sons while she was out at work at her mother’s pub, the Royal Oak.
Miss Nicholson said Jordon ‘knew lots of people and had lots of friends’, and would often go out riding his quad bike with Akins, and that as far as she knew they ‘got on fine.’
He was regularly contacted by people on his mobile phone which would lead to him going out – and if he said he would be ‘back in a minute’ he would be back in about 15 minutes, or if he was going out for a while it would be around an hour.
On the morning of the shooting Miss Nicholson said that while Mr Banton was making a cup of tea at their home in Spellow Close, Rugby, he received a message on his phone.
“He told me he was going out to sort something. He would normally tell me where he was going, but did not on this occasion. He left at approximately 11.30. He did not appear worried or bothered.
“After an hour he had not returned, so I started to call and text him as I needed the car, but I did not get any response.”
She said the next thing she knew was the police coming to the house and asking questions about Mr Banton and the car.
And she accepted that because she thought he ‘might have got himself in trouble,’ she initially lied and claimed the Seat had gone in for repairs so he could not have been in it.
In fact, the jury has heard, Mr Banton had been shot three times, once to the head, in front of passing motorists as he sat in the car in Newton Road, by someone who was then driven off in Akins’s hired Vauxhall Insignia.
Pc Ashley Cooper, a licensed search officer with West Mercia Police, told the court that two days after the killing he took part in a search of Akins’ home.
He said he had responsibility for searching ‘zone A,’ which he explained was a bedroom on the ground floor.
Asked by prosecutor Andrew Smith QC whether he found any particular item, Pc Cooper replied: “I did, yes.
“I seized some items of clothing along with a shotgun cartridge which was located on top of the wardrobe in the room. To begin with the item was on top of the wardrobe.
“It came to my attention on moving a dark-coloured baseball cap which caused it to roll forward and fall to the floor. I picked it up with a gloved hand and put it in a sealed exhibit bag.”
Earlier Mr Smith had told the jury that components of the cartridge, including writing on the wadding, were found to match the three found at the scene of the shooting.
Questioned by Adrian Redgrave QC, for Akins, Pc Cooper agreed that the cartridge was ‘easily discoverable’ by anyone carrying out a search of the room.
Mr Redgrave put to him: “Once you discovered it you were scrupulously careful to avoid any contamination such as in any way interfering with it.” The officer replied: “That’s correct, yes.”
Mr Redgrave suggested: “You acted professionally in a way which would not have destroyed any fingerprints or DNA.” Pc Cooper agreed.
The trial continues.