Following a two-week trial at Maidstone Crown Court, a 28-year old man from Gravesend has been found not guilty by a jury of the two counts he faced, murder and manslaughter. The jury took just over 7 hours to clear him of both counts. The verdicts were unanimous.
In the summer of 2016, Mr Chuter began a relationship with the ex-partner of the deceased’s brother. There followed a series of incidents involving Mr Chuter and the family of the deceased culminating in the fatal event in July 2018, when the deceased turned up at Mr Chuter’s address, armed with a pair of scissors.
Five minutes later, the deceased left with three wounds – two to his head and one, the fatal wound, to his abdomen. This wound was 7cm deep. He died minutes later. All three wounds had been caused by a lock knife owned by Mr Chuter which had been on his mantelpiece when the deceased entered his address. Mr Chuter sustained cuts to his hands. His partner sustained bruising which both said had been caused by the deceased.
After the deceased left, Mr Chuter panicked, burned his clothes, destroyed his phone and buried the knife in his sister’s garden. In due course, he handed himself in to the police but in interview omitted to mention the lock knife and the fact that he had caused the deceased’s wounds. Instead, he implied that they must have been caused outside the address, after the deceased had left, when they fell over together whilst continuing to scuffle.
By the date of trial, Mr Chuter had accepted having lied in interview and admitted picking up the lock knife and using it to defend himself from the deceased’s attack, causing the deceased’s wounds in the process.
During the trial, Mr Chuter relied on the defence of self-defence. It was successfully argued on his behalf that the householder provisions applied. Hence, the Crown needed to prove ‘grossly disproportionate force’. This was on the basis that the deceased had entered as a trespasser. The defence of ‘loss of control’ was also left, although in the event the jury did not need to consider it having acquitted Mr Chuter on both counts on the basis of self-defence.
Mr Chuter’s defence involved the analysis of complex DNA evidence (relating to the blood found at the scene, how it had been left and so on) and pathological evidence (relating to how the injuries has been caused). There was also detailed phone evidence, which the defence supplemented with their own schedule which assisted the jury in following the build-up to the incident and lengthy CCTV footage which the defence were able to use to Mr Chuter’s advantage. Finally, there was the need to cross-examine various members of the deceased’s family, taking on their assertions that the deceased had travelled to Mr Chuter’s address with peaceful intentions.
Oliver Saxby QC was leading Jade Gambrill of Reeves and Co Solicitors, Ashford.
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