A MOTHER-OF-FOUR who allegedly murdered her lodger following a row over a missing £21 told a court today how she “loved her like one of her own”.

Julie Gowling is said to have plunged a kitchen knife into Charlene Walker at the home they shared in Darlington, but denies her murder and is on trial at Teesside Crown Court.

The Northern Echo: VICTIM: Charlene Walker

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Victim: Charlene Walker

Gowling, 44, said she had known Miss Walker - known as Charlie - for about three years and was aware that she had a heroin habit.

She said that Miss Walker came to live with her after she had been abused. "I was content to provide her with a home," she added.

Gowling said Miss Walker was given a small bedroom upstairs at the property in Louisa Street and acknowledged that there were times she had been aggressive or abusive towards to her.

Defending, John Elvidge asked: “Did you dislike Charlie?”

Gowling replied: “No, I loved her like one of my own.”

The defendant said she accepted that she held the knife that went into the victim and as result of that she had died.

However she said did not intend to stab her or cause her death.

Describing the events of December 6 last year, she said became aware of an argument between Miss Walker and her own daughter Amy Yule in the kitchen over an allegation that the victim had stolen £21.

Gowling said the pair began fighting and her daughter had her hands around Miss Walker’s neck.

After being told to leave Miss Walker then picked something up, she said.

“Charlie went for something and I thought my life was going to end soon, so I picked up a knife from the table.”

The defendant said she and 34-year-old Miss Walker began scuffling and the victim then fell to the floor.

“I remember the knife coming out of her and her collapsing, but I don’t remember the knife going in,” she said.

Gowling said she was in shock and went to dispose of the knife in a field.

She said: “I knew I was in trouble.” Asked how she felt, she said: “Terrible, horrified, frightened.”

Gowling said she could not remember later telling police in one of her interviews that Miss Walker had stabbed herself.

The trial continues.