Murder accused denies recruiting a driver

A man accused of murder has denied that he recruited a friend as a “getaway driver” for a planned attack on the alleged victim.

Joe Church told Leeds Crown Court that Nadeem Rashid was just driving him and Aaron Smith around in his car and denied they were hunting for Joshua Hirst on the evening of August 3.

He said Smith suddenly told Rashid to pull up. He then got out and said he wanted to talk to someone and Church said he followed him until Smith met Mr Hirst near his home in Grove Street, Mirfield.

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Under cross-examination by Neil Davey, QC, prosecuting, he denied that he and Smith were wearing balaclavas and had attacked Mr Hirst who collapsed and died after his throat was slashed and his carotid artery cut.

Church told the jury he presumed Mr Hirst had suffered his fatal injuries after he and the victim struggled over a knife which had fallen from one of his pockets and was picked up by Mr Hirst.

He agreed he was wearing gloves at the time but denied that was to keep fingerprints off the knife, bought that morning.

He told the jury: “I wear gloves on a regular basis when I go out, it is still not that warm at night.”

Mr Davey suggested the pair ran back to Rashid’s car where he was waiting with the engine running. “That’s why you told him to get rid of his phone, if the phone traffic linking you was innocent there would be no need for him to do so,” he said.

“That’s not right,” said Church, who told the jury he was just panicking in general about what had happened.

He denied he later said to others that Mr Hirst deserved what had happened to him for his part in damage earlier in the year at Church’s home. “I never said that, it’s a complete lie,” he said.

Church, 21, of Redlands Close, Mirfield, Smith, 19, of Saville Street, Emley, and Rashid, 21, of Lapwing View, Horbury, Wakefield each deny murdering Mr Hirst, 20, and possessing an offensive weapon.

The jury heard Smith will not be giving evidence.

The Recorder of Leeds, Judge Peter Collier QC, asked Smith’s barrister Peter Joyce QC if he had been advised that the jury may draw such inferences as appear proper from that decision.

Mr Joyce said: “We have given him appropriate proper advice and he has decided not to give evidence.”

The trial continues on Monday