The cousin of a killer who allegedly murdered his girlfriend and set fire to her home has denied any involvement in helping to start the fire and destroy evidence.
Stafford Crown Court has heard this week during an on-going trial how Gary Tyson, 36, of Shirland Street, Chesterfield, allegedly stamped on Gemma Stevens’ head at her home on Catherine Street, Brampton, on March 2, before returning to the property and torching it on March 3.
Tyson, who has admitted killing the mother-of-three but is denying murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility, allegedly visited and recruited his cousin Jamie Bray, 26, of Kingsclere Walk, Grangewood, Chesterfield, to help destroy evidence after the killing and to give the impression the 32-year-old had died in the fire.
Mr Bray told the court: “On March 2, Gary Tyson arrived about 11.50pm and he was drinking and was wobbly and slurring his words.”
The two had a chat in the kitchen at Mr Bray’s home before going out with cans of lager, according to Mr Bray who claimed they were just walking the streets and drinking.
However, prosecuting barrister Michael Auty QC claimed Tyson had needed and had recruited Mr Bray after claiming Gemma Stevens’ dead body was later dragged through her house to the settee, smoke alarms were tampered with and two separate seats of fire were lit.
The court heard how the two men went to Chatsworth Road and Chester Street and Bank Street, near the old Robinson’s factory, and Mr Bray said Tyson suggested they should go and see Gemma Stevens and having walked down Catherine Street they went back to the Robinson’s factory.
Mr Auty QC argued they were trying to find out if Gemma Stevens’ body had been discovered.
However, Mr Bray said they had just been checking to see if Gemma would let them in and they had later returned to the house because it had been getting cold.
Gary Tyson allegedly told Mr Bray to keep his hood up and his voice down, according to Mr Bray who claimed he had thought Tyson was just being nothing more than paranoid.
Mr Bray said: “I heard crackling and rustling and then there was a bang and I asked Gary what he was doing and he said shut the f**k up and keep the noise down and I thought it was because of the time and because it was late.
“I had been waiting on the corner for ten minutes. He hadn’t asked me to alert him to anyone coming.
“Gary had been gone about ten minutes. I didn’t feel anything suspicious was happening and I didn’t think anything had happened to Gemma at that time.”
Mr Bray told the court that later on he had heard sirens and Tyson told him he had set Gemma Stevens’ house on fire and a body would be found but he thought Tyson was joking.
Jamie Bray also revealed that Tyson had allegedly said he had punched Gemma Stevens in the back of her head and then stamped on her and Mr Bray added that Tyson then changed his story to say he had allegedly stabbed her in the arm and slit her throat.
Mr Bray added: “I left him I didn’t think anything had happened to Gemma and when we split up I thought he was going to Gemma’s house.”
He first learned there had been a fire at Gemma Stevens’ house after he became aware of Facebook messages the following morning on March 3.
Mr Bray claimed he did not help Gary Tyson set fire to Gemma Stevens’ home and he had not help clean Gemma Stevens’ body or the house and had done nothing to assist Tyson.
He added: “I didn’t have a role there. I thought we were just asking Gemma if we could get into the property.
“I thought we wouldn’t be allowed in so we went to the 24-hour garage and I didn’t help Gary Tyson in any way whatsoever and I was only there to have a drink with him.”
Tyson is denying murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility due to mental health issues but has admitted killing Gemma Stevens on the basis of manslaughter. He has also admitted committing arson.
Defence barrister Michael Evans, representing Gary Tyson, told the court Tyson would not be called to give evidence.
Mr Bray has pleaded not guilty to arson as to being reckless as to whether life was endangered at other properties and has also pleaded not guilty to assisting an offender.