MURDER suspect Nicholas Rought has today (Monday, March 24) told a jury he hit a friend with a baseball bat in self-defence after he was stabbed in the leg - but did not kill him.

The father-of-one, who stands accused of murdering John ‘Jonty’ Hall, along with Stuart Smith, admitted hitting the 46-year-old on the head, shoulder, chest and leg.

Mr Rought, 45, said he struck Mr Hall, a childhood friend, in the face with a fork when he was threatened with the knife.

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Newcastle Crown Court heard the two men ended up in a struggle on the floor in the dining room of a house in Mill Terrace, Shiney Row, and Mr Rought was stabbed in the leg.

Mr Rought said he used the bat to disarm Mr Hall, before he went for a shower to clean his wound, leaving the father-of-two, saying: “I am sorry, Nicky.”

Trouble flared among the friends during a drinking session on September 14 and left Mr Hall with fatal head injuries.

Mr Rought said he had returned from the shower after hearing ‘banging and thumping’ to find Mr Hall covered in blood and motionless on the floor.

He said: “As I came back through I heard a voice say ‘That’s for getting me slashed up in Durham Prison. It was Colin Brown’s.

“Paul Tate was holding the baseball bat next to John Hall and screaming at him.

“He had lost the plot. He had lost control.”

Mr Tate, 49, of Cambridge Road, Silksworth, Sunderland, was also charged but the jury has been told he died after he cut his own throat while on remand in Holme House Prison at Stockton.

Colin Brown, who has not been charged, gave evidence earlier in the trial and said Mr Rought and Stuart Smith ‘giggled’ as they took turns in hitting Mr Hall during a savage beating.

Mr Rought, 45, of Princess Street, Shiney Row, and Mr Smith, 42, of no fixed abode, deny murder but have pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice by hiding Mr Hall’s body.

He was discovered by a man and his 15-year-old son walking their dog in Mark's Lane, West Rainton, near Durham City, the following evening.

Mr Rought said he, Mr Smith and Mr Tate carried Mr Hall from the house.

He said: “I thought he was unconscious. I said I wanted to take him to hospital.

“I went to open my car door. On my return I saw Paul Tate over him cutting his throat.”

The trial continues.