Hatfield killer defends knife attack

A MAN accused of murder said his victim apologised to him before he died – despite the fact his voicebox had been severed in the knife attack.

Heroin addict Richard Clare is standing trial at St Albans Crown Court, accused of murdering his girlfriend’s former lover Peter McConnell, at Clare’s home in Fern Dells, Hatfield.

At the opening of his defence on Friday, Clare said slicing Mr McConnell’s throat with a Stanley knife was “instinctive”, as he believed Mr McConnell, 43, was about to attack him with an axe following a drunken row over his ex-girlfriend Charlotte Whitcombe, whom Clare had started a relationship with.

Speaking from the witness box, Clare, 38, said: “I thought he was going to kill me. It was instinctive.”

He said that on the day of the killing, Sunday, March 21, McConnell was drunk and had acted “aggressively” towards him and Charlotte.

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It was in McConnell’s bedroom, Clare said, that McConnell produced a bag and reached for what he believed to be an axe. Clare pulled the knife across McConnell’s throat and ran downstairs.

Prosecutor Miranda Moore said: “According to you, you’ve got an aggressive, intoxicated man upstairs who has threatened you and threatened Charlotte, and you’ve armed yourself with a sharp knife and chosen to go into the same room as him.”

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Clare replied: “I was optimistic that I would be able to calm him down.”

Clare said McConnell followed him down the stairs after the attack, and said “sorry” repeatedly before he died.

But Miss Moore said Mr McConnell’s voicebox had been severed, and it would have been “impossible” for him to speak.

Clare replied: “I have a clear recollection of what he said, but what he said wasn’t clear. I can’t explain the science.”

After McConnell died, Clare said two of his friends helped him clean the house and wrap Mr McConnell from head to toe in parcel tape, before burying him in the back garden.

Miss Moore said that only Clare’s fingerprints were found on the parcel tape, to which Clare replied his friends had been wearing gloves.

Asked why he didn’t wear gloves, Clare replied: “If it was ever to come out, I wanted it just to be me.”

Clare denies murder. The trial continues.

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