Dad accused of killing thief denies living in vigilante 'fantasy world'

Winsford Road in Bury St Edmunds where Neil Charles was fatally wounded

Neil Charles (inset) died after suffering a knife wound in Winsford Road, Bury St Edmunds - Credit: Archant/Supplied

A Suffolk man accused of killing a thief has denied living in a “fantasy world” in which he saw himself as “some sort of vigilante”.

Giving evidence at Ipswich Crown Court, David King denied that he thought the police were “useless” and that he’d taken matters into his own hands after 47-year-old Neil Charles tried the door handles of cars outside his Bury St Edmunds home in the early hours of the morning.

During his second day in the witness box, King accepted he’d told a police operator in a 999 call after Mr Charles had been fatally injured with his knife "It’s a live situation" but denied that this was "vigilante speak".

“I meant it was current. I meant that Neil Charles was still around and that I was still at risk. I was absolutely petrified.”

He denied a suggestion from prosecution counsel Christopher Paxton QC that he was living in a “fantasy world” in which he saw himself as “some sort of vigilante”.

King, 55, of Radnor Close, Bury St Edmunds and his 19-year-old son Edward have denied murdering Mr Charles and an alternative charge of manslaughter. 

During his evidence, King admitted exchanging violent texts with his son Edward prior to the killing saying what they might do if burglars or thieves came to their home.

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In another text to his wife, King accepted he said “scum needs to die” and that this was a reference to thieves who had previously stolen his wife’s car wheels.

Asked by Mr Paxton if in his eyes Mr Charles was “scum” because he was a thief and a burglar, King said he hadn’t known anything about Mr Charles before the night in question.

During cross-examination by Mr Paxton, King denied deliberately stabbing Mr Charles and that his claim that Mr Charles had run on to his knife was a “desperate lie".

Asked by Mr Paxton if he was telling the jury that his knife went into Mr Charles’ chest after he ran from a distance of between 2.5 and 3m onto it, he replied: “Correct.”

 “I was the one who was scared for my life. I didn’t attack him he attacked me,” he told the court.

King said he found it hard to find himself facing a murder charge because he felt he’d done nothing wrong.

Asked by Mr Paxton: “You see yourself as a victim?” King replied: “Yes.”

King denied that he was sorry for what he’d lost as a result of being accused of murder and not for what he’d done to Mr Charles.

He accepted that in a 999 call after Mr Charles was injured he had deliberately not mentioned to the call operator that Edward had been out with him on the night in question.

He said this was because Edward hadn’t been present when Mr Charles suffered the fatal knife wound and had only arrived on the scene several seconds later.

King said he had been in such a state of shock that he hadn’t seen Edward slash a tyre on Mr Charles’ bike with a 27 inch Ninja sword he’d taken out with him that night even though they had been standing close to each other.

It has been alleged the defendants hunted down Mr Charles and stabbed him after he tried the door handles of cars parked outside their home.

Mr Paxton has claimed they delivered their "own form of justice" on Mr Charles in the early hours of June 20 last year around 70 metres from their family home.

Mr Charles suffered a 12cm single stab wound to the chest and a slash wound to his knee and died two days later.

Mr Paxton said Mr Charles had a "long career" as a thief and burglar and the prosecution accepted he was out that night stealing or looking to steal. 

Mr Paxton claimed the defendants had an "obsession" with weapons and at their home had knives, knuckledusters, machetes, and shotguns - which David King had licences for as a registered firearms holder. 

The trial continues.