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'Peacemaker' broke up knife fight with Neil Bennett, minutes before he was killed near Gloucester Park

By The Citizen  |  Posted: May 20, 2014

Neil Bennett

'PEACEMAKER' Tyler Johnson broke up a knife fight involving Neil Bennett just minutes before he was found dead in the road near Gloucester Park, a court has heard.

Johnson, 26, feared he would get dragged into a murder investigation after witnessing Mr Bennett stagger into the road and collapse in Trier Way after being stabbed.

Bristol Crown Court heard his evidence of what happened on Saturday, July 27 when a row boiled over between Mr Bennett and Christopher Horn at Spa Villas.

Deaf Johnson, who has used a hearing loop throughout the trial, said he had been up for a 'few days' prior to the murder after bingeing on Mcat.

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He visited the flat of co-defendants Lucy Dowdall and Ricky James to buy cannabis to help him sleep, he said.

Drug dealer Horn was also staying at the flat at the time. All four deny murder.

Johnson admitted using drugs regularly for around 12 years and knew Mr Bennett well.

Dressed in a grey suit, Johnson told how he had just moved back to Gloucester following a failed stint helping run a pub in Clevedon with his mother.

He was sofa surfing with friends and homeless at the time of the murder.

"If there is ever any aggro, I am the one who calms it down," he said.

"When Neil arrived at the flat he was aggressive, it was out of character.

"He appeared out of it.

"There was a lot of commotion between him and Chris, I got the impression it was over Mcat.

"I could tell Neil was angry with Chris. He wanted drugs but didn't want to pay."

Johnson said Mr Bennett took a knife from the kitchen and threatened Horn before he intervened to move the dispute outside.

Horn is then alleged to have gone back inside to arm himself with a knife.

Johnson denied punching Mr Bennett in the fracas that followed and claims he tried to separate the two men, both who had knives. Mr Bennett was stabbed through his lung.

"I was not concerned about Neil," Johnson added.

"He was aggressive and threatening, but didn't look injured.

"Now he was picking a fight with all of us. I said to him we would fight if that is what he wanted.

"My blood boils when I get angry, I lose my temper."

A chase followed through Gloucester Park and Mr Bennett was stabbed a second time, fatally in the heart.

The group of four then returned to the flat, went shopping and walked Dowdall's dog. Some changed their clothes to avoid being recognised by witnesses, it is alleged.

Johnson lied to police in his statement about returning to Spa Villas. He said he was scared police would think he was part of a gang.

He told the court he ditched his jacket, not far from where Mr Bennett was found lying in a pool of blood. They were all later rounded up and charged with his murder.

Defending Horn, Stephen Pownall QC said Johnson lied to police to protect his own skin.

"You have told a pack of lies to police," he said.

"You are not the sort of person who scares easily. You were in the vicinity of the fatal stabbing, you admit to having a temper and are the type who is violent when angry.

"You got rid of your jacket as you didn't want to be recognised. Why do this if you had done nothing wrong?"

Johnson replied: "My head was all over the place because of what I had just seen. I did not think for one minute I would be standing trial for murder."

The trial continues.

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