THE jury in the trial of an Ellesmere Port man accused of murdering 31-year-old Steven Carey will retire to consider its verdict tomorrow (Wednesday).

Ben Steven Wilkinson, 25, of Waverton Road, Great Sutton, has denied the charge of murder in relation to the fatal stabbing of Mr Carey on the night of March 14, in Pooltown Road, by the Costcutter store in Ellesmere Port.

Wilkinson has pleaded guilty at the start of his trial at Chester Crown Court to the lesser charge of manslaughter, and of possessing a bladed article – a green-handled kitchen knife – in public.

Summing up the case on Tuesday, November 24, the judge, Justice Michael Leeming, told the jury: "There is no dispute that the defendant killed Steven Carey, and did so unlawfully."

It was also clear the fatal stabbing – which saw Wilkinson use the kitchen knife to stab Mr Carey three times in the back – had taken place at 8.46pm, with a number of witnesses.

The jury of five men and seven women will therefore be expected to find a verdict on whether Wilkinson is guilty or not of murder.

Previously, the trial the court heard witnesses giving evidence that Mr Carey had come to the address of Wilkinson's partner at the time on Pooltown Road just before 8.45pm on March 14, demanding to see Wilkinson over an unpaid £80 cocaine debt.

Tania Griffiths QC, prosecuting, said in her closing speech Wilkinson had claimed he had taken the knife from the kitchen before meeting Mr Carey outside, as he wanted to "scare" Mr Carey away.

But, Ms Griffiths said, there was no evidence the knife was shown to Mr Carey or anyone else before the stabbing, even when the two started fighting in the street, a few doors away from the house.

The three knife stabs had gone in "to the hilt each time", with the knife having a blade of about four to five inches.

The stab wounds had gone into Mr Carey as he was "on his knees", getting up, facing away from Wilkinson.

The wounds were so serious that Mr Carey – who had walked to Regent Street after the fight – had gone into cardiac arrest at 9.05pm, with emergency services taking him to the Countess of Chester Hospital, where he died at 9.55pm.

Both Wilkinson and Mr Carey had taken alcohol and illegal drugs prior to the incident, the court heard.

David Elias QC, defending, said while Wilkinson had declined to give evidence in court, he had given a full account of events in his police interview on March 16.

Witness accounts had seen a woman – which the defence said was Wilkinson's partner at the time – trying to break up the fight in the street.

Mr Elias said it backed up Wilkinson when he said: "I used the knife when Steven Carey was going for my girlfriend."

Mr Elias said there was also an independent witness account who said Mr Carey had got Wilkinson "in a headlock" at one point during the fight, which backed up Wilkinson's account when he said Mr Carey had put him in "a choke-hold".

Mr Elias told the jury if Wilkinson had intended to kill Mr Carey, why had he not used the knife immediately?

Mr Elias added there were multiple witness accounts of Wilkinson being in shock immediately after the stabbing, with him saying: "I stabbed him" and looking "jittery and shaky".

Wilkinson had dropped the knife in the kitchen sink at the Pooltown Road house and went to a friend's house in Bostock Green, where he hid in a shed and had the door locked behind him, before police located and arrested him.

When police had asked him in interview why he hadn't called 999 after the stabbing, if he hadn't intended to hurt Mr Carey, Wilkinson replied "I didn't [think], I just panicked and ran off.

"I made a rash decision and will have to live with it."

The judge has told the jury he will only accept a unanimous decision from them at this stage.

He added that Wilkinson declining to give evidence in court meant his assertions in police interview were not under oath and could not be cross-examined.

It did not prove the case against him, but Justice Leeming said it may add weight to the prosecution case.

The judge will complete his summing up at 10.30am on Wednesday.