Tranmere man alleged to have stabbed pal through heart over £40 row A MAN stabbed his friend through the heart in a row over illegal Sky cards worth just £40, a court heard.
Mark Collins, 36, is alleged to have plunged the knife into the chest of pal Lee Willingham (pictured) as they fought over the “petty” dispute.
Mr Willingham, 30, drove off after being knifed to the chest, unaware he was fatally injured, but crashed his van just streets away after losing consciousness.
Collins, of Park Road, Tranmere, denies the murder on January 14.
He accepts wielding the knife but insists he was acting in self-defence after being set upon by Willingham, his pal Andrew McGowan and his dog.
John McDermott QC, prosecuting, told Liverpool crown court jurors: “You may have to decide whether by lucky chance he [Collins] saw the knife on the ground or in truth he went into the confrontation armed and ready to use the knife.”
Mr McDermott told the nine men and three women that Collins and Mr Willingham were “casual friends” but had fallen out on the day of his death.
Their dispute was sparked after car wash manager Mr Willingham, of Tranmere, sold two illegal Sky cards, worth just £40, to Collins’ friend Russell Evans. But about week before the fatal stabbing Mr Evans contacted Collins complaining they had stopped working and saying he wanted a refund.
On January 14, Collins took Mr Evans to Mr Willingham’s work and then his home where he handed over a £40 refund.
Mr McDermott said: “That should have ben the end of it but tragically it was not.”
He told how Mr Willingham was unhappy about Collins calling at his home, being described by his girlfriend as “huffy”.
At about 11pm that night, Mr Willingham was driving to a friend’s house with his pal Mr McGowan and his dog in the back, when he suddenly decided to confront Collins at his home.
Mr McDermott told how the two men exchanged a series of text messages and calls and eventually Collins came out his home.
Mr McGowan, who was sat in the rear of the van, told how Mr Willingham got out and the men began to exchange words before he heard a thud against the side of the van.
He climbed out the van to find the men brawling but as he did so his dog jumped out and locked his jaw on Collins’s leg.
Mr McDermott told how Mr Willingham backed away as Mr McGowan tried to get his dog off Collins’s leg.
He said Collins was swinging his arm shouting: “I’ll stab your dog, I’ll stab your f****** dog” as he got up from the floor.
At the same time Mr Willingham went to his van and armed himself with a baton saying: “Cheeky b******, a knife”.
Mr McDermott said: “We suggest at this stage both men were armed, one with a baton, one with a knife.
“The two men simply went for each other.”
In the fight that broke out Collins suffered a nasty gash to his head, but Mr Willingham suffered a fatal stab wound to his chest.
He backed off and got back into his van to drive to hospital.
But Mr McDermott said he soon began to lose consciousness and his van ploughed into a parked car on Fairfield Road.
Despite the best efforts of people at the scene and an emergency team at Arrowe Park Hospital, he died at 12.15am the following day.
Collins was arrested soon after at a nearby friend’s house. In interview, he insisted the knife had been in his pocket because he had been using it earlier that day to work on his motorbike.
He claimed he was attacked by both Mr Willingham and Mr McGowan, as well as the dog and used the knife in self-defence, fearing for his life.
But Mr McDermott told jurors: “There is a world of difference between self-defence with a knife under attack and carrying a knife ready for use in a fight.” THE ECHO
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