Mobile phone ‘cell site’ analysis showed that murder victim Jordon Banton had been called by his alleged killer just minutes before his death, a jury has been told.
And a cell site expert said analysis of Darrell Akins’ phone supported the route the police believe he and Paul Clarke took from the scene of the killing.
Warwick Crown Court has heard that 23-year-old father-of-three Mr Banton was callously blasted to the head with a shotgun at close range in front of eye-witnesses in July last year.
It is alleged three 12-bore shots were fired at him as he sat in his Seat Leon car in Newton Road, near Rugby, by Akins, while Clarke acted as his get-away driver in Akins’ hired Vauxhall Insignia.
Akins, 28, of Follager Road, Rugby, and Clarke, 35, of Bluebell Close, Rugby, have both pleaded not guilty to his murder.
Asked about his field, cell site analysis engineer John Tarpey said: “It’s the science of interpreting mobile phone records to determine the location and movement of that phone at times of interest.”
He explained that phone masts have three, or sometimes more, ‘cells’ which can be individually identified and which cover different directions from the mast and have different ranges depending on the geographical location.
Mr Tarpey said he would begin by going to locations of interest, such as home addresses, to establish which cells provide the best coverage for that area.
“So I can say this is consistent with being at the scene of a crime or at an alibi address or somewhere else.”
He said he was asked to carry out cell site analysis for two phones attributed to Akins, one to Clarke, one to Mr Banton and one to Akins’ one-time partner Charlotte Flear.
In the early hours of July 25, the day of the murder, Akins’ phones, ending in 705 and 969, used cells which were consistent with it moving around Rugby, including Norton Leys, Follager Road, Bluebell Close, Main Street in Bilton, where Miss Flear lived, and ‘the scene of the crime.’
Between 10am and 10.35 Akins’ phones ‘travelled to and possibly through the centre of Rugby,’ and their use was consistent with being at Follager Road at 10.15 and Bluebell Close at 10.22, with Clarke’s phone also being there at 10.18.
In that period texts were exchanged between Akins’ 969 phone and Mr Banton’s phone.
Clarke’s phone was used at 10.42 when it connected via a cell at the ‘BT International Rugby Radio’ mast in Hillmorton which Mr Tarpey said provides coverage to a wide area of Rugby including Bluebell Close and Main Street.
“It was not used again until 14.40, so we can’t say where it moved to or went.”
Between 10.35 and 11.10 one of Akins’ phones made calls using the same cell, which was consistent with it being at Main Street or Bluebell Close, and Mr Tarpey said: “Many of the calls were with the Banton phone.”
Earlier in the trial the jury heard Mr Banton’s partner Sarah Nicholson said that while he was making a cup of tea at their home in Spellow Close, Rugby, he had 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.”
The jury has heard the sound of the shooting in Newton Road from a nearby householder’s CCTV system which recorded three shots in a 17 second period beginning at 11.40 and 40 seconds.
Mr Tarpey said that in the three-minute period from 11.38 to 11.41 one of Akins’ phones connected via the cell which gives ‘best coverage’ for the murder scene but also for Bluebell Close and Main Street.
There were also four separate uses of his phone in that period using the Cottage Leap cell which covers the same area.
Prosecutor Andrew Smith QC asked whether he had been able to establish the last use of Mr Banton’s phone, and the expert replied: “I was. That was a call at 11.38 from 969.”
He said there was also a call recorded at 11.39 from 969 to Clarke’s phone which lasted just three seconds.
Asked whether he was able to say whether the two men were together or apart at that time, Mr Tarpey said: “The suggestion is that they’re not together because there’s a call between them, but you can’t be certain.”
But earlier Mr Smith had told the jury: “The prosecution case is that both Akins and Clarke were together in the Insignia at this point. The prosecution say the call is anomalous. It may have been a call dialled by mistake and does not demonstrate Paul Clarke was elsewhere.”
Mr Smith said the police provided Mr Tarpey with a route they had identified the Insignia took following the shooting, which he compared with the use of Akins’ phones.
“It’s not possible to determine whether the user was in the car, but the cell use was consistent with being around the scene, 100 metres south of the CCTV camera at 11.41,” said Mr Tarpey.
The next record was at 11.45 some distance away at the Lilbourne Road junction, then to the east of the BT International mast, and then the Crick Road cell which has ‘best coverage’ for the area around the Hillmorton Fish Saloon.
The phone moved to the north-west of the BT International mast and then at 12.02 to another cell which covered Hillmorton Fish Saloon, where Miss Flear’s phone was used a minute later.
It is alleged that, after abandoning the Insignia, Akins had called Miss Flear to ask her to pick him and Clarke up, which she did near the fish shop at around midday. The trial continues.