A fight at a wake led to a “violent showdown” where a man was fatally stabbed through the heart, a murder trial jury has heard.

Petty disputes after a family funeral led to the death of Steven Willis, 27, also known as Steven Pickering, outside his father’s home, Teesside Crown Court was told.

He was killed by a “team” of men in a “shameful episode of street violence” between family factions, said prosecutor Richard Wright QC.

Opening the case to a jury, he said trouble started with “relatively trivial” rows and fights at the wake, sparked by a “triangle of tension” in the large local family.

He said: “They were the catalyst for the outbreak later that evening of serious violence and murder.”

Steven John Willis, who died following an incident in Meadowcroft Road, Normanby
Steven Willis (Image: Collect Unknown)

He said Mr Willis’ father John Pickering, 47, clashed with his nephew Mark and sister Susan Ibitson at the Teesside Bridge Social Club in North Ormesby.

John Pickering left the Middlesbrough club after the “violent physical contact” on the night of April 16.

The Crown says Ms Ibitson’s “incensed” son Kieran Ibitson went to his uncle John’s home on Meadowcroft Road, Normanby armed with a “vicious-looking” knife.

He took four other men – brothers Mark and Dominic Pickering and friends Jahmal Weaver and Jack Cross – to “settle the score”, said Mr Wright today.

Police on Meadowcroft Road, Normanby (Image: Terry Blackburn)

He told jurors John Pickering sent his nephew Mark texts saying “me and you now, let’s go… come on big boy” and the group headed to a “violent showdown”.

He said they went “mob-handed” to confront a powerfully built man with a fearsome reputation who emerged stripped to the waist.

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Fighting erupted and it is alleged Ibitson stabbed John Pickering to the torso from behind and knifed Mr Pickering’s younger son Lennon.

“His blood was up,” said the Crown prosecutor. “The fight had barely begun when his knife was out and he was stabbing.

“He came for a fight. He came armed for that fight and he began to stab as soon as he was able.”

This fuelled the violence and John Pickering’s older son Mr Willis came out wielding a samurai sword before he was disarmed.

Incident happened on Skippers Lane in Normanby
Police on Meadowcroft Road, Normanby (Image: Terry Blackburn)

Ibitson is accused of driving his knife through Mr Willis’ breastbone into his heart with “considerable force”, causing death in minutes from the devastating injury.

Mr Willis collapsed from his unsurvivable injury before friends could get him into a car to hospital.

The alleged killers left a “scene of devastation” as family, friends and neighbours tried in vain to save Mr Willis’ life, the court heard.

The jury was shown CCTV footage of the fighting outside the home and the earlier trouble at the club.

Mr Wright said he did not suggest John Pickering and his sons behaved well, but the five accused men chose to engage in violence and escalate it with “devastating consequences”.

Police on Skippers Lane, Normanby
Police on Skippers Lane, Normanby (Image: Katie Lunn)

He told the court: “It was clear from the outset that he was outnumbered five to one.

“The team of five that had come together, had got out of the car and taken on John Pickering together, all left together, because we say they were in it together.”

He said Ibitson stabbed his uncle and two cousins, supported and encouraged by the others.

He said some played lesser roles in the fighting but they shared criminal responsibility for the killing.

All five Middlesbrough men – Ibitson, 21, of Beresford Crescent, Thorntree; Dominic Pickering, 23, of Grinkle Avenue, Park End; Mark Pickering, 32, of Greenham Close, Thorntree; Cross, 21, of Olney Walk, Park End; and Weaver, 22, of Rounton Green, Berwick Hills – deny the murder and manslaughter of Mr Willis.

They also deny charges of wounding with intent to cause serious harm, though Ibitson has admitted the serious assault against John Pickering.

Mr Wright said Ibitson now asserted he did not know whether he stabbed Steven Willis to the heart, but if he did he acted in lawful self-defence.

He said the other four denied they were responsible for Ibitson’s actions or that they went to the home for violence.

The jury has started to hear evidence from John Pickering about the trouble at the wake.

Proceeding

Time Line

What the prosecution say happened on day Steven Willis died


  1. Funeral wake at Teesside Bridge Club

    Members of the extended Pickering family gathered at the North Ormesby club following a funeral.

    Prosecutor Richard Wright QC said John Pickering, the father of Steven Willis, fought with his nephew, the defendant Mark Pickering inside the venue.

    A “shirtless” John Pickering also had “violent physical contact” with his sister Susan Ibitson, mother of defendant Kieran Ibitson, outside the wake.

    John Pickering left and went to his home in Normanby, stopping en route to buy beer.


  2. Search at Jovial Monk pub

    Later, defendant Dominic Pickering and another man “searched” the North Ormesby pub for Steven Willis before leaving in a Ford Fiesta, belonging to co-accused Jack Cross.


  3. Change of clothes and another pick-up

    The Crown says the men then went to the home of Mark Pickering on College Road, Thorntree, so he could change his clothes.

    They went on to collect co-accused Jahmal Weaver, jurors heard.

    The prosecution say the five gathered together as “a team” as they planned to go and take on John Pickering and his fearsome reputation.


  4. ‘Scene of devastation’ at Meadowcroft Road

    Jurors were told how the defendants got out of the car and John Pickering came out of his house “stripped to the waist and ready to fight”.

    Kieran Ibitson stabbed John Pickering, an act that “fuelled” further violence.

    Steven Willis emerged from the house wielding a samurai sword. He was disarmed by Mark and Dominic Pickering before Ibitson used his weapon again, the court heard.

    Prosecutor Mr Wright said: “This time he drove the blade of the knife… through the breastbone of Steven Willis with what must have been considerable force so that the blade penetrated his heart.”


  5. Beresford Crescent

    The alleged attackers left Meadowcroft Road and stayed together afterwards.

    The prosecution say they first went to Kieran Ibitson’s home on Beresford Crescent, Thorntree.


  6. ‘Weapon disposed of at Fleet House’

    Kieran Ibitson next went to flats at Fleet House on Cargo Fleet Lane, changed his clothes and disposed of the weapon, the court heard.

    It was later recovered by police from another flat in the building, wrapped in a towel bearing Jahmal Weaver’s DNA.


  7. First police interviews

    As word filtered out that Mr Willis had died and a murder investigation was under way, the men surrendered or were arrested.

    They were each interviewed by police.

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