Murder trial: Victim’s face slashed ‘like a piece of meat’, hears Sheffield court

Stabbing victim: Philip Smith, 36.
Stabbing victim: Philip Smith, 36.
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A KILLER stabbed a man nine times then slashed him viciously across the face ‘like a piece of meat’ as he lay dying in a family row over a girl, a court heard.

Gary McKeown, aged 37, allegedly murdered 36-year-old Philip Smith with a kitchen blade at his terraced house on Church Street, Thurnscoe, Barnsley, knifing him as he lay helpless on the ground and begging for an ambulance.

Sheffield Crown Court heard the fatal stabbing happened after an argument escalated between Philip’s younger brother, Ben Smith, and McKeown’s nephew, also called Gary McKeown.

Rodney Jameson QC, prosecuting, said McKeown punctured Philip’s left lung four times and cut into his ribs, before sitting on top of him and slashing his face.

Jurors heard Ben described McKeown using the blade ‘as though he was cutting into a piece of meat’.

Mr Jameson told the court Philip managed to stagger outside onto Church Street, but collapsed and died on the pavement because of massive blood loss.

McKeown denies murder, but admits attacking Philip, a fellow Thurnscoe resident, in self-defence.

Mr Jameson said Ben Smith once had a relationship with a girl called Lauren Sutton, but she then started going out with Gary McKeown Jr.

“There seems to have been a degree of hostility between the two men,” he told jurors.

Ben and Gary Jr exchanged abusive texts on January 28 this year - the day of the killing - but Mr Jameson said that Ben, 21 at the time, was mistakenly sending messages to McKeown Snr.

“Ben Smith was invited to Church Street in order to have a fight,” he said.

Another relative of Philip’s, Martin Smith, later received a phone call from McKeown Snr, who said he would ‘end up stabbing’ Ben if he didn’t stop texting him.

Mr Jameson said Ben fought McKeown at Church Street, but surrendered after McKeown bit him over his right eye.

“They shook hands and that was it - they took the view the matter was finished.”

But jurors heard Philip demanded Ben should have a ‘fair fight’ with McKeown when he saw his brother’s injuries soon afterwards.

Mr Jameson said the brothers armed with cricket and baseball bats returned with two pals to Church Street, where Philip went inside with McKeown just before 4.30pm.

“Ben followed his brother and saw the defendant with a kitchen knife in his hand. Philip tried to knock the knife from the defendant’s hand but was unable to do so.

“Philip and the defendant began to wrestle in the kitchen, and after a while Ben heard his brother say ‘Give’ - indicating he’d had enough. He looked at his brother and said ‘I need an ambulance’.

“He fell to the floor on his back. By that stage Philip had been stabbed nine times and was dying.”

McKeown later called 999 claiming his house had been broken into, and told police he had acted in self-defence.

“He believed his life was in danger and did no more than he had to,” Mr Jameson said.

But he added: “Above all perhaps, the slashing of Philip’s face when he was helpless on the ground and calling for an ambulance is evidence that establishes beyond doubt this was not self-defence.”

The trial continues.