Sarah Brierley: Sheffield man accused of murdering ex-flatmate says he was asleep at time of attack
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A man accused of murdering his former Sheffield flatmate claims to have been asleep around the time she is believed to have been killed, a jury has been told.
David Scott, aged 40, and Zoe Clark, 38, are currently on trial at Sheffield Crown Court, accused of murdering their former flatmate, Sarah Brierley, in February 2023, an offence both defendants have pleaded not guilty to.
The two defendants were in a relationship at the time of Sarah’s death, and had also been living with her in the weeks running up to it, the court heard. All three were habitual users of Class A drugs, the court has heard.
Police discovered 49-year-old Sarah’s body at her flat in Skelton Close, Woodhouse, Sheffield, with ‘serious trauma to her head’ at just after 8am on February 20, 2023, but the extent of ‘decomposition’ suggests she is likely to have died some days earlier, the jury of seven women and five men have previously been told.
A Home Office pathologist who examined Sarah's body determined she had suffered severe injuries to her head, which had fractured the skull, and were consistent with being caused by multiple blows - at least five - with a blunt weapon inflicted with severe force.
Prosecutor David Brooke KC has previously told jurors that it is believed Ms Brierley died between 2.46am and 1.08pm on February 14, 2023. The earlier time represents the time at which Ms Brierley’s friend, Darren Turner, was captured on CCTV leaving her flat. The later time refers to the timestamp on a photograph seemingly showing Ms Brierley’s dead body, with a bin bag over her head.
The defence case
Summarising the defendants’ defence case yesterday (October 31, 2023), Mr Justice Kerr said Mr Scott told jurors during the course of his evidence that he was not the one to murder Ms Brierley, and was asleep at the time the killing is believed to have happened.
Mr Scott, of Abbeyfield Road, Pitsmoor, Sheffield, was staying with two friends, who lived a street over from Ms Brierley at Skelton Drive in Woodhouse.
The court was also told that Mr Scott claimed he had gone back to Ms Breirley’s flat on the evening before she is believed to have been killed, along with her and her friend Darren Turner; but only remained there for around an hour because he knew he 'couldn’t be there late' when he was staying with friends.
Prior to going back to Ms Breirley’s flat, Mr Scott said he had bumped into Ms Brierley and Mr Turner when he was looking for 'cigarette butts to smoke crack'.
Mr Justice Kerr summarised the evidence provided to the court by Mr Turner, in which he stated that he left Ms Brierley’s flat at around 2.56am, leaving her there alone with Mr Scott. Mr Turner was subsequently picked up on CCTV a short time later, walking away from Ms Brierley's flat with his dog, the court heard.
Mr Scott’s contradictory account, the court heard, was that he left Ms Brierley’s flat, leaving her with Mr Turner, at around 10.30pm, returned to the Skelton Drive flat where he was staying, took his medication and fell into a 'deep sleep' at around midnight. He said he awoke briefly at 7am, by which time, Ms Clark had returned, and fell back asleep after that until around 10am. After awaking he spent the following day 'scoring' drugs and 'partying.'
Mr Scott told jurors the last time he had been in Ms Brierley’s flat was the evening before she had died.
He was asked about whether he was one of two figures seen on CCTV at a cashpoint withdrawing £10 from Ms Brierley’s account at 12.08am, but denied it was him.
Ms Clark, of Skelton Lane, Woodhouse, Sheffield has not given evidence, but acknowledged through her legal counsel, that she was one of the two figures seen accessing the cashpoint, and claimed Mr Scott was the other one. The court has previously been told that Ms Clark had her benefits paid into Ms Brierley’s bank account, and had been using the account shortly before her death.
The prosecution has previously said that ‘money’ was among the issues in the background for Ms Brierley and the two defendants. Another was Ms Brierley’s feelings for Ms Clark, which she had expressed through a 'love letter'.
Mr Scott’s jealousy, arising from Ms Brierley’s feeling for Ms Clark, has been suggested as a possible motive for the murder, however Mr Scott has denied harbouring such emotions.
On Ms Clark’s behalf, the jury has also been told that there is no evidence that she was present at the time of Ms Brierley’s murder.
Murder confession did not happen, claims David Scott
Mr Scott has also denied confessing to Ms Brierley’s murder in the presence of a number of people at a property being used by a woman called Francesca Mason, who is among the people who claim to have heard the outburst at some point between February 21 and 22, Mr Justice Kerr told jurors.
Ms Mason said she had only known Mr Scott and Ms Clark for a 'few days' prior to this, but had 'clicked' with Ms Clark during their brief acquaintance.
In her evidence, Ms Mason told jurors that Mr Scott had 'indirectly' taken responsibility for Ms Brierley’s death and said something along the lines of: 'She’s got what she is due, she f***ed with my girl'.
Ms Mason was asked why this account varied from what she initially told police on February 24, 2023, when she said Mr Scott 'didn’t specifically' take responsibility for Ms Brierley’s death, but said it was more 'how he was acting'.
Ms Mason said she had been concerned about using names and being a 'grass,' but by the time of her subsequent statement in April 2023, she said she was in 'no doubt in her mind' that Mr Scott was trying to get the message across that 'he did it'. Ms Clark, she suggested, 'wasn’t admitting to anything' but was 'worried she would get the blame for it'.
Under cross-examination, Ms Mason said she had 'no reason to lie' and that Ms Clark wasn’t someone she would 'risk committing perjury for'. This evidence was summarised by Mr Justice Kerr for the jury.
Continuing with the summary, Mr Justice Kerr said Jacob Bradley was another of the people to witness what prosecutors allege was Mr Scott’s murder confession.
In his evidence he said he did not know Mr Scott or Ms Clark, and recalled Mr Scott appearing 'erratic' and 'intoxicated' at the time.
Mr Bradley said Mr Scott was subsequently asked by others present if he had 'killed her,' referring to Ms Brierley, and he responded by saying 'yes, he hit her over the head' and later said she 'had deserved it'.
Both Mr Scott and Ms Clark talked about handing themselves into police around this time, the jury were told in Mr Justice Kerr's summary.
When asked about the accounts of Ms Mason and Mr Bradley, the jury was told that Mr Scott said he did not take responsibility for Ms Brierley’s death, and suggested he would have no reason to admit to a crime he did not commit, to people he did not know.
Mr Scott had also claimed that Ms Clark must have been the one to carry out the killing, because she is the only one that could have taken a picture of Ms Brierley’s dead body, with her head covered by a bin bag.
He said that he believed Ms Clark had subsequently conspired with her mother to 'put the blame' on him, jurors were told.
Television did not belong to Sarah Brierley
Prosecutor Mr Brooke previously told the jury that items at Ms Brierley's flat, including a television and an air-fryer, seen in pictures recovered from the defendants' phone, were not present when police discovered Sarah's body.
The court also heard how neighbours reported seeing a man and a woman, who the prosecution claim are the two defendants, 'coming and going' in the days after she died; and were captured carrying bags of items away from her flat on a number of occasions.
Continuing in his summary, Mr Justice Kerr said Mr Scott denied stealing a television from Ms Brierley’s flat in the days following her death, claiming that a television he was in possession of at that time had been obtained by Ms Clark from a drug dealer. He did not believe it to belong to Ms Brierley, but said he was not the one to take possession of it.
He said the reason he was seen coming and going with bags of items around the time of her death is because he was storing things in a 'bin store' used by drug addicts near to Skelton Close.
The jury are expected to be sent out to consider their verdicts today November 1, 2023).
The defendants' pleas
Both Mr Scott and Ms Clark have entered not guilty pleas to charges of murder and theft.
Mr Scott has also denied an additional charge of robbery.
The trial continues.