A man who denies stabbing a Holbeach factory worker to death told a jury there were “plenty of other possibilities” for how the man died.
Stephen Sleaford (38) says he disarmed knife-wielding Janusz Smoderek (48) after going to help an 18-year-old girl as she was molested by the drunk father-of-three in Boston.
A murder trial jury has been told Sleaford acted in a “lawful and praiseworthy manner” when he and another man went to the girl’s aid as she was sexually assaulted on her way home.
Having intervened lawfully after Mr Smoderek grabbed the girl’s breasts it is alleged Sleaford knifed the flower packer in the heart as they wrestled.
But giving evidence at Lincoln Crown Court, Sleaford insisted it was Mr Smoderek (pictured) who produced a knife.
The jury heard Mr Smoderek had visited a lap dancing club after finishing his shift at Intergreen. Tests carried out after his death showed he was nearly three times over the drink-drive limit.
Sleaford told the jury he heard the girl’s “hysterical screams” and pursued Mr Smoderek and disarmed him.
“He pulled a knife, he was opening it,” Sleaford explained.
“He had one hand on the blade and one hand on the handle. I tripped him and he let go of it when he was toppling backwards. My hands were around the knife, it was spur of the moment.”
The jury heard Sleaford continued to walk the girl home. Under cross-examination from prosecution barrister Tim Spencer, QC, Sleaford denied he knew it was safe to continue their journey as he had stabbed Mr Smoderek.
Mr Smoderek’s body was found the next morning with five stab wounds to his chest.
When asked by Mr Spencer what other possibilities there were for Mr Smoderek’s death Sleaford replied: “Plenty. His body wasn’t found until 7.30am. Anything could have happened, I was with the girl.”
The prosecution alleges Sleaford “always carried a knife.”
But giving evidence, pub landlord Delroy Walker said he had “never known any trouble” from Sleaford.
Mr Walker said he knew Sleaford as a regular at the Sloop Inn in Donington where he previously worked.
Asked if he had ever known Sleaford to carry a knife Mr Walker replied: “No.”
Sleaford, of no fixed address, denies murdering Janusz Smoderek on September 11, 2011. The trial continues.