One of the men accused of murdering Simon Marx said he was slapped by the Blackpool dad of two shortly before violence broke out.
Steven Lane, 30, of Shalgrove Field, Fulwood, said he got involved in a fracas at the Newton Arms pub, in Normoss, to protect his co-defendant, David Easter, after he was set upon by Mr Marx and his friend Rick Alston.
Lane and Easter, 55, of Heron’s Reach, Blackpool, both stand accused of murdering Mr Marx, 42, by punching and stamping on him during a fight at the pub in the early hours of October 7 2017, causing him to die of a brain injury some 30 hours later.
At Preston Crown Court today, Lane denied stamping on Mr Marx and glassing Mr Alston.
The court heard how, in the minutes leading up to the violence, Lane and Mr Marx had been involved in a dispute about a misunderstanding between Lane and Gareth Ramsey, one of Mr Marx’s friends.
It was then that Lane alleged that Mr Marx slapped his face, though he said he did not retaliate at that time.
He said Mr Marx agreed to sit down and speak with him, but was being ‘aggressive’.
He said: “I stood up and moved back a couple of feet. I felt we were sat too close and that the way he was behaving, I felt he was going to punch me or headbutt me.”
Mr Marx then returned to the vaults area of the pub, but pushed past staff and friends to return to Lane’s table, where it was alleged Easter told him to leave Lane alone.
Nick Johnson, defending, asked: “What was your impression of Simon Marx?”
Lane replied: “I thought he was going to attack Dave.”
He added that there was ‘an exchange of punches’ from both sides, and that Rick Alston also got involved.
He said: “I moved across, I think I was carrying my pint glass. I put it down and I went to grab Rick Alston. I knew I wouldn’t be able to grab hold of him with both hands if I was carrying something.”
Mr Johnson asked: “Was it your intention to us your glass as a weapon?”
Lane replied: “No.”
Mr Johnson asked: “At any stage did you use a glass to deliberately try to hurt anyone?”
Again, Lane replied: “No.”
He said he succeeded in grabbing hold of Mr Alston, and was struck in the face by him.
He said: “(I felt) under threat and I reacted by throwing one punch back in self defence.”
When asked why he threw a punch, he said: “Because I thought he was going to punch me.”
He admitted ‘swiping’ a glass from the bar to ‘distract’ Mr Alston, but said he did not use it to injure him, as he had fractured his hand when punching him.
Mr Johnson asked: “Did you stamp on anybody?”
Lane said: “No.”
Mr Johnson said: “Did you raise your leg above knee height two or three times and stamp down?”
Lane replied: “Absolutely not.”
Following the violence, Lane left the pub without his wallet or keys.
He said he ran along Newton Drive and hid in bushes for an hour as he believed he had seen Simon Marx, Rick Alston and Gareth Ramsey’s brother, Gavin, walking nearby.
When asked how he felt about Mr Marx’s death, Lane said: “It’s tragic but at the time I acted out of instinct towards a threat that we both faced.”