A Bishop Auckland man killed outside his own home by a ‘team’ of attackers was not their intended victim, a court has heard.

Five people are charged with murdering 41-year-old Lee Clarkson outside his home on West Lane in Bishop Auckland on November 29 last year.

All five - four adults and a 17-year-old - deny murder and a trial, expected to last five weeks got underway at Teesside Crown Court this morning.

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They are, Michael Richardson, 52, of Boddy Street, Bishop Auckland; Karl Jones, 45, of General Bucher Court, Bishop Auckland; Helen Jones, 42, of General Bucher Court, Bishop Auckland; Craig Dent, 42, of Gray Street, Eldon Lane; and the teenager who cannot be named for legal reasons.

Opening the prosecution’s case Mr Richard Wright KC told the jury Michael Richardson formed the ‘team’, armed with weapons when they went to target Lee Clarkson’s house.

The Northern Echo: Lee Clarkson.Lee Clarkson. (Image: DURHAM CONSTABULARY)

But he told the court Mr Clarkson was not the intended victim of the ‘mob-handed’ group who he says planned to attack his housemate Simon Blacklock instead.

Mr Wright KC said: “In the early evening of November 29, a team of people intent on violence attended the home of a man called Lee Clarkson, who lived at 65 West Lane in Bishop Auckland.

“At least four members of that team attended at his house. They came mob-handed and they came prepared. Their faces were covered, and they brought weapons with them. At least one of them was armed with a baseball bat and at least one of them with a knife.

“They smashed panes of glass in the window and the rear door of the property. They then forced their way into the house.”

The Northern Echo: Police at the scene on the evening of the incident.Police at the scene on the evening of the incident. (Image: TERRY BLACKBURN)

The jury were told that Lee Clarkson had ran upstairs to warn Simon Blacklock, who climbed out of a first floor window, dropping into the front yard of the house and running away.

But Lee Clarkson “was not so lucky”, the prosecutor said.

“He was caught by one of the attackers. He was dragged into the front garden. He was beaten.

“He was stabbed three times.

“The team of attackers then ran away.

“Lee Clarkson was left on the ground and died there a short time later. The cause of his death was blood loss that arose from two of those stab wounds tracking deep into his abdomen and causing damage to his liver.

“Lee Clarkson’s death was the culmination of a pre-planned and targeted attack on his home by a team who had all, I suggest, signed up to the use of serious violence including the use of weapons.”

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Two members of that team, Craig Dent and the 17-year-old have admitted manslaughter, but continue to deny murder.

The jury was told the teenager “admits that he went to the house armed with a knife and that he used that knife to stab Lee Clarkson”, but denies murder “because when he used significant forced to drive the knife deep into the body of his victim he did not intent to cause him any serious harm”.

Dent also denies murder or intending to cause serious injury. The prosecution argue that both are guilty of the greater offence of murder.

Richard Wright KC told the jury that Michael Richardson had formed the ‘team’ after two burglaries at his family home on September 18, and again on November 19, 2023, just ten days before Clarkson was killed.

Mr Wright continued: “The first was reported on September 18, 2023. He complained that his shed had been broken into and power tools stolen.

The Northern Echo: A trial is taking place before High Court Judge Mr Justice Jacobs at Teesside Crown Court.A trial is taking place before High Court Judge Mr Justice Jacobs at Teesside Crown Court. (Image: Picture: NE)

“There was then a second burglary at the home on November 19, during which it was said that expensive jewellery was taken. That was also reported to police. Michael Richardson admitted that he would find the perpetrator himself.

“We suggest that the attack at the home of Lee Clarkson was Michael Richardson doing just that, having recruited a team to help him.

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“It seems particularly clear on the evidence that Simon Blacklock was the likely candidate. There does not appear to have been any other evidence for the home of Lee Clarkson to have been targeted. There is no reason for Lee Clarkson to have been targeted.

“The explanation seems to be that Simon Blacklock was responsible for the burgling his (Michael Richardson’s) house. This was that this was all about.”

The trial continues.