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Man accused of killing Chalcots mum says he was ‘hiding in toilet during attack’

Murder trial defendants blame each other for Hannah Leonard's death

08 November, 2018 — By Tom Foot

Hannah Leonard died in February

A MAN accused of the murder of a Chalcots estate mother told the Old Bailey he had taken cover in the toilet while she was stabbed to death.

James Whitaker told the court on Tuesday he had tried to intervene when Lucy Casey, 43, began attacking Hannah Leonard, 55, but left the room after she screamed at him to “f*** off”.

Mr Whitaker, 28, told the court: “I was frightened about what was happening. I went to the toilet, I had to go.”

Both Mr Whitaker and Ms Casey are on trial after pleading not guilty to murder.

Ms Leonard, who had been out drinking with Mr Whitaker and Ms Casey in Kilburn, earlier on February 5, died from more than 40 stab wounds. She was found by a painter working on the outside of Bray Tower four days later.

Prosecutor Sarah Whitehouse QC asked Mr Whitaker: “So a woman is being viciously attacked on the floor and your first thought is to go to the toilet? She was stomping on her.”

Ms Leonard’s body was later found to have patterned imprints on her face, thought to be from the sole of a shoe, the court heard last week.

She also had knife wounds all over her body.

Ms Whitehouse asked Mr Whitaker: “Do you always disappear when someone tells you to f*** off?”

“Sometimes,” he replied.

“How is it Hannah’s blood is on your trainer?” she added.

“I don’t know,” he replied.

Mr Whitaker was asked why he did not call the police when things began getting out of hand. He told the court: “Because I was going to get arrested because of my criminal record. I had assaulted a woman.”

The prosecutor said: “You have in the past attacked defenceless women, and you habitually carry knives. Is that right?”

“Yes,” he said.

Mr Whitaker’s barrister asked his client whether he understood what “habitually” meant. He replied: “Yes. It means I carry knives all the time.”

The court heard last week how Ms Casey and Mr Whitaker were filmed on CCTV entering Bray from the Fellows Road side with Ms Leonard, before midnight.

The three – who were not considered to be friends – had been drinking in the Sir Colin Campbell pub in Kilburn High Road, before returning to Ms Leonard’s flat on the tenth floor.

Last week, the court was told Mr Whittaker had been filmed on CCTV leaving the tower block at around 3am with Ms Casey, who was wearing the coat Ms Leonard had been wearing in the pub that night. She was also carrying Ms Leonard’s “distinctive handbag”.

Ms Casey’s and Ms Leonard’s blood was found on scissors and a kitchen knife left in the flat. Ms Casey had healing wounds on her ­fingers, the court had also been told.

Giving evidence earlier this week, Ms Casey said she was asleep during the killing and woke up to find Mr Whitaker standing over the dying Ms Leonard. She said she had been given permission to take Ms Leonard’s bag and coat.

On Tuesday, Mr Whitaker was asked what Ms Casey’s first words were when they left the block.

He replied: “She said, ‘I killed her’.”

Barristers and the judge are expected to sum up the case today (Thursday) with a verdict expected on Friday

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