A JURY is considering its verdict in the trial of a man accused of murder in a County Durham village.

Richard Lee, from Sacriston, between Chester-le-Street and Durham, is accused of the murder of 25-year-old Ryan Thompson, who died after being stabbed on September 1 last year.

On the night in question, Mr Lee, also 25, was armed with a large kitchen knife, which he claims he grabbed to tackle burglars who were breaking into Mr Thompson’s garage in Gregson Street, Sacriston.

The court has heard masked men were trying to steal motorbikes from the garage, but Mr Lee, who heard the commotion while having a cigarette at the back door of his girlfriend’s house in Gregson Street, stopped them from taking two of the machines after confronting them.

Mr Thompson arrived on the scene while Mr Lee was in possession of one of the bikes in the street’s back lane.

The court heard he “got the wrong end of the stick” and thought Mr Lee was trying to steal the bike, and threw a punch at him after getting out of a car, which was being driven by his girlfriend.

John Elvidge, QC, prosecuting told the court the positions then turned, with Mr Lee becoming the aggressor and stabbing Mr Thompson.

Prior to the stabbing, which happened just before 11pm, Mr Lee, who had drunk six or seven pints that evening and had taken cocaine, was described by witnesses as being “pumped” and was said to have been shouting that he “ruled the street” and was going to stab someone.

Mr Elvidge said: “He made multiple stabbing motions, multiple times.

“He was a wildly aggressive young man, a danger to anyone who got in his way.

“He got into the mindset that he would be using that knife in any confrontation and he did.”

But Chris Henley, defending Mr Lee, said he had taken the knife “to scare” the burglars and did not intend to use it.

Mr Lee denied shouting he was going to stab anyone and described his waving of the knife, which was captured by CCTV, as "stupid".

Mr Henley said: “He’s trying to do the right thing. He’s spoken to his girlfriend and asked her to call Ryan and he’s stopped them from stealing his friend’s bikes.

“Then it all goes horribly, horribly wrong.

“He thinks he’s going to get a pat on the back and he gets a punch in the face.”

Mr Elvidge told jurors at Newcastle Crown Court that Mr Lee had exaggerated the strength of his relationship with Mr Thompson in a bid to convince them that he would not intend to do him serious harm.

When giving evidence on Tuesday, Mr Lee told the court he was “close friends” with the victim, whom he had gone to school with, and had socialised with.

Mr Lee, of Viola Crescent, denies murder and possession of an offensive weapon.

The trial continues.