A man accused of murdering his cousin just hours after a relative’s wake told detectives they were “normally a close family”.

Mark Pickering said “all hell broke loose” outside his uncle John’s house on Meadowcroft Road, Normanby on the night of April 16.

After the death of John Pickering’s son Steven Willis in the fighting, Mark Pickering said: “It wasn’t meant to be like that.

“We’re normally a close family. I can’t understand it. I honestly can’t understand why it went as far as it did.”

Steven John Willis, the 27-year-old man who died following an incident in Meadowcroft Road
Steven Willis, the 27-year-old man who died following an incident in Meadowcroft Road

Mr Willis tragically died from a stab wound to the heart and five men are accused of murder and manslaughter.

On Thursday – the seventh day of trial – the jury heard police interviews with three of the suspects.

Mark Pickering told detectives that trouble broke out between him and John Pickering earlier that day at the wake.

John Pickering was also accused of hitting Mark Pickering’s aunt Susan Ibitson.

“He knocked her out in the middle of the road, then he disappeared,” Mark Pickering told police.

Teesside Crown Court (Image: Teesside Live)

He claimed John later phoned him and made threats to kill him.

“He was threatening to come to my house where my kids were,” he said.

“This has happened before. It’s happened a few times and we’ve managed to sort disputes out, sort our differences out without having to come to blows.

“I thought we could have just sorted it out as normal.”

He said when he and his co-defendants went to the home in Normanby, John Pickering “ran straight at me”.

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

“There was just something different about him on this day. I don’t know why,” he said.

“I started to defend myself. The next thing I heard him running off saying: ‘He’s stabbed me.’”

Mark Pickering said he then saw Mr Willis come running out of the house with a samurai sword.

“He was hitting anyone or anything in his way,” he told the detectives.

“He must just have been sticking up for his dad.”

Mark Pickering said he rugby-tackled Mr Willis and pulled the sword out of his hands and took it away.

He denied being responsible for stabbing John or Lennon Pickering or Steven Willis, he said he did not know who was and did not see anyone hit with a knife.

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

He said of the aftermath: “That was the second altercation we had in one night.

“I was exhausted after the first one. I was even more exhausted after this one.

“I literally couldn’t move. It just sucked all the energy out of me.”

The jury also heard the police interviews of Mark’s brother Dominic Pickering.

He said he thought he could defuse the situation when he heard of the trouble at the club.

Asked whether there had been any discussion of knives and blades, he said: “Not at all.”

When they got to the house, he said he saw John Pickering “jumping up and down with no T-shirt on” then Steven Willis and Lennon Pickering jumped over the wall.

Incident happened on Skippers Lane in Normanby
Incident happened on Skippers Lane in Normanby (Image: Terry Blackburn)

He said he got the better of Lennon Pickering but was not aware of any injuries to Lennon.

Dominic Pickering said he was closer to Steven Willis than his other cousins as they were around the same age.

“We used to go everywhere together,” he said.

Asked how he felt, he said: “Devastated. Absolutely devastated.”

Co-accused Jack Cross told police: “I was there. I wasn’t involved.”

He said he gave the other men a lift and when they got to Meadowcroft Road, he saw John Pickering standing on his garden with his top off.

Of Steven Willis, he said: “He came out with a machete. He’s ran at them.

“Everyone’s stepped back towards the car. He’s put the machete through my window.

“I’ve got in the car and I’ve driven up the road. Two minutes later they’ve come back up the road and got in the car and I’ve driven off.

“But I didn’t see anything else.”

He said he did not know anyone in his group had a stabbing weapon, heard no talk of knives and if he had, he would not have taken them in his car.

Dominic Pickering, 23, of Grinkle Avenue, Park End, his brother Mark Pickering, 32, of Greenham Close, Thorntree; Cross, 21, of Olney Walk, Park End; Jahmal Weaver, 22, of Rounton Green, Berwick Hills; and Kieran Ibitson, 21, of Beresford Crescent, Thorntree, all deny the murder and manslaughter of 27-year-old Mr Willis.

Proceeding

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