Armed robber ‘stabbed drug dealer in heart in flat struggle’

An armed masked robber used a ladder to enter a first-floor flat before he stabbed the occupant to death through the heart, a court heard yesterday.

James “Jock” King was asleep on his sofa when 31-year-old Damien Noble put a pillow across his face and demanded he hand over some heroin.

There was a struggle during which Mr King, 40, begged for 
his life and was stabbed in the chest before Noble fled with between £100 and £200 and some drugs.

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Stricken Mr King was able to make his way downstairs into the street and shouted for help before he collapsed and died outside his flat at Tadcaster Close, Denaby Main, near Doncaster.

Noble, previously of West Street, Mexborough denies murder but admits the manslaughter of Mr King on November 17 last year. He claims the death was an accident.

Prosecutor Simon Waley QC told Sheffield Crown Court Noble broke into Mr King’s flat through a kitchen window in the early hours by placing a makeshift ladder against the wall outside.

Mr King’s bare-chested body was found at 6.30am and he died from a single stab wound in the heart up to seven centimetres deep. Other injuries to his face and chest were probably caused by the knife tip.

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Forensic examiners found bloody fingerprints on the window ledge and blood stains throughout the flat. “It suggests that someone was crouched down behind the sofa before assaulting Jock as he lay on the sofa,” said Mr Waley.

A neighbour below, was woken up at 4.55am by “scuffling and clattering” from Mr King’s flat. “She heard a voice saying ‘no, no’ several times in an almost begging, pleading kind of way, then heard footsteps going rapidly downstairs,” said the prosecutor.

The court heard Mr King had been supplying local youths with heroin and he himself was a regular user and heavy drinker.

Noble was arrested later that day. He had a £20 note with a bloodstain matching that of Mr King and was later questioned over the killing.

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A friend of both men, Trevor Williams said three months previously he had been at the flat when Noble asked about the “gear” Jock was selling. Noble said he was “going to have him” and asked Mr Williams about stabbing somebody during a fight.

After the body was found witnesses saw Noble burning clothes on some wasteland at The Crags in Conisbrough. He later washed his trainers at a friend’s house.

He was arrested for murder on November 26 and claimed he had spent the night at his cousin David Noble’s flat at Hill Top Gardens. He admitted knowing Jock and said he had bought drugs off him as recently as the night before he was killed.

In another interview he claimed to know nothing about the ladders but said he had recently given Jock a £20 note for some amphetamines. Noble suggested travellers had attacked Mr King and it was they who should be arrested.

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During a third police interview, as more evidence was put to him, Noble made no comment. But in a fourth interview, on November 28, he said he had left his cousin’s flat in the early hours with the intention of breaking into Mr King’s flat to steal his heroin.

Wearing gloves and a balaclava he adapted some ladders and carried a knife to open the kitchen window then tucked it into his sleeve with the blade sticking out. He later tied the knife to his left wrist.

He got the pillow, put it over the victim’s face and demanded he hand over his drugs at which point there was a struggle. “He tried to grab him in a headlock and he thought that was when the knife must have gone into Jock,” said Mr Waley. Noble threw the knife into a garden and claims he panicked and burned his clothes.

The trial continues.

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