Murder accused 'never intended to kill'

A DRIVING instructor accused of murdering his former girlfriend told a jury yesterday he did not at first realise she was badly hurt after a fight at her home.

Nigel Pickard said he just thought Laura Smith had fainted or struck her head as he held her in a headlock and she was struggling against him.

He told Leeds Crown Court that when he was arrested he knew paramedics were working to resuscitate Miss Smith, but he couldn't understand what had caused it.

The jury has heard Miss Smith, 29, was taken to Scarborough Hospital but died the next day from brain damage as a result of oxygen starvation from pressure to her neck.

Pickard, 45, of Filey Road, Scarborough denies murdering her in July last year.

Simon Reevell, QC, defending, him asked: "At any point did you intend to kill her?"

"Never, never ever," replied Pickard.

"At any point did you intend to cause her serious injury," he was asked. "Never at all," he replied.

He said they had a good relationship but he was shocked when Laura told him she was pregnant. He did not want children and had offered to pay for an abortion but when she decided to go ahead with the pregnancy he had gone along with it, though he did not attend the hospital with her for the birth.

He said he found his daughter Olivia "gorgeous" but things were difficult after her birth because Miss Smith suffered from post-natal depression and he accepted he was not as helpful as he might have been.

Some months later she appeared distant and he saw her texting a lot and he accused her of having a boyfriend. She left him and returned with their daughter to her parents' home.

He said things got worse over the following weeks and it affected the arrangements for seeing the baby.

On Sunday 11 July he went to her home in Southwold Rise, Scarborough, to try and smooth things over and discuss maintenance arrangements but when he told her he did not understand what had gone wrong she told him he was boring and predictable.

She also spoke of him not seeing Olivia. "She was trying to hurt me for no reason," he said, adding that he wanted her to understand the emotional hurt she was causing him and to listen to his side.

"I just grabbed her by the throat with my left hand." He said he did that for 10-15 seconds but as he let go she kicked him in the testicles and they both fell to the floor.

Pickard told the jury she was trying to scratch his face and kick him when he got up. They were both swearing at each other and he got her in a headlock to "calm it all down". They struggled and as he eased his grip they finished up on the floor in the lounge.

He told the jury he thought she had calmed down because she was not moving and did not answer him and that was when he thought she had fainted or struck her head.

Richard Wright, prosecuting, asked Pickard in cross-examination if he was trying to suggest it was Miss Smith's fault she had died.

"That she was being clever towards you, she wouldn't listen to you, how terrible it all had been for you, how she was attacking you and you were just trying to restrain her. Are you not trying to imply it is Laura's fault she died?"

"No I am no trying to imply that," replied Pickard. He said he accepted responsibility for killing her but was defending himself.

The trial continues next week.