Mirfield murder trial latest: Man accused of hiring ‘getaway driver’

SCENE: Hepworth Lane, Mirfield, where Josh Hirst was found collapsed by his father after he was fatally stabbed. (d531j232)
SCENE: Hepworth Lane, Mirfield, where Josh Hirst was found collapsed by his father after he was fatally stabbed. (d531j232)

A man standing trial for the murder of 20-year-old Josh Hirst has been accused of hiring a getaway driver to help him escape the scene of the attack.

Joe Church gave evidence for a second day at Leeds Crown Court yesterday (Friday).

He told jurors how he and Aaron Smith had been driven around Mirfield by Nadeem Rashid on the night Mr Hirst died.

Prosecutor Neil Davey QC said: “I suggest that the reason you went out in Nadeem’s car is because you recruited Nadeem as your getaway driver.”

Church said: “No, that’s not right.”

Earlier, Church told the court that Nadeem was driving the group towards Ravensthorpe when Smith asked him to stop in Shillbank Lane, Mirfield.

Smith got out of the car and went to Grove Street, where Josh Hirst lived, and got into a fight with Mr Hirst by his house.

Church said a knife he bought earlier that day fell out of his pocket when he intervened in the scrap, and Mr Hirst picked it up.

He told the court he thought Mr Hirst managed to cut his own throat as Church tried to wrestle the weapon from him.

Church said Mr Hirst then began attacking Smith again.

Mr Davey said: “Josh still wanted to have a go at Aaron, even though by this time he must have had his throat cut... Is that your evidence?”

Church said: “Yes, it is.”

Earlier he admitted accidentally slashing Mr Hirst’s back as he tried to pull him off Smith during this second scuffle.

Church said the blade of the knife he was holding had been released when it fell to the floor in the first scuffle.

Mr Davey said the knife was tested by police, who dropped it from heights of up to one metre. He said the blade of the knife did not spring open on a single occasion.

Church denied that he and Smith were wearing balaclavas during the incident, though two were recovered by police with their DNA on them.

He said that was because they had worn them while driving earlier in the day to “wind up” the passengers in Church’s girlfriend’s car, which was driving ahead of them.

But Mr Davey said none of the passengers in Church’s girlfriend’s car saw Church and Smith do this.

The two balaclavas were bought in Leeds earlier that day and traces of Mr Hirst’s blood were found on the one worn by Church.

This, Church said, was because he bundled his bloodstained clothes into a bag containing the balaclavas when he was cleaning himself up after the incident.

Church did admit wearing gloves during the incident, which happened on August 3 last year.

He said: “It might have been August but it was still not warm at night.”

Mr Davey also referred to evidence given earlier in the trial by Christopher Coles, who said Church said Mr Hirst “deserved it”.

Mr Coles was at the house in Huddersfield where Church and Smith cleaned themselves up and was in the car with them when they disposed of their clothing.

He later helped police recover this evidence. He told the court that at the house in Huddersfield Smith had admitted that he, Church and Rashid had followed Mr Hirst home.

Church said: “I never heard him say anything like that.”

When asked why Mr Coles would lie, Church said Mr Coles was scared of a cocaine dealer he thought Mr Hirst was working for.

Rashid is expected to give evidence at the trial on Monday but Smith has refused to enter the witness box.

Earlier, the court was told that Smith was violently sick when the news came through that Mr Hirst had died of his injuries.

Church, 21, of Redlands Close, Mirfield; Smith, 19, of Saville Street, Emley, and Rashid, 21, of Lapwing View, Horbury, all deny murder and possessing an offensive weapon.

The case continues.