Mirfield murder trial: Jury hears accused ‘hunted’ for victim Josh Hirst

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A YOUNG man was murdered as he returned home from celebrating his girlfriend’s 18th birthday, a court was told today.

Leeds Crown Court heard Josh Hirst was in an alley when he was stabbed.

Two of the three men charged with his murder had that day seen friends jailed for wreaking havoc on Mirfield’s London Park Estate.

Jurors heard the men mistakenly believed Mr Hirst had been involved in some way in the estate fracas.

Prosecutor Neil Davey said Joe Church and Aaron Smith hunted for Mr Hirst with a third man, Nadeem Rashid, hours after the sentencing.

“There were to be no more birthday celebrations for Josh Hirst because later that night he was killed,” he said.

“He was stabbed to death with a knife outside his own home in Grove Street, Mirfield.”

The court heard Mr Hirst, 20, was driving home from dropping off his girlfriend on August 3 last year when he was followed by a car driven by Rashid.

Church and Smith, who were also in the car, got out when Mr Hirst pulled up outside his house just before 11pm.

Mr Davey described how Mr Hirst ran down an alley when he saw the two men in balaclavas.

Mr Hirst was caught by the pair and stabbed in his hand, lip, back and throat.

“[Church and Smith] had a choice,” Mr Davey said.

“They could stay with Josh Hirst and try to stem the blood loss, call an ambulance, call for help or get Nadeem Rashid to drive him to a hospital, but they left him for dead and did everything they could to save their own skin.”

Mr Hirst, who was bleeding heavily, went to his house and called for help. He tried to make to his dad’s car in nearby Hepworth Lane so he could be driven to hospital, but collapsed on the way.

An ambulance was called and Mr Hirst was taken to hospital where he died of his injuries.

As Mr Hirst’s family were calling the ambulance Church, 21, was contcting his girlfriend Kirstie Rainford, Mr Davey told the court.

Miss Rainford drove Church’s silver Vauxhall Astra to Forge Lane where he and Smith had been dropped off by 21-year-old Rashid. Rashid then immediately arranged to sell his silver Renault Megane.

Miss Rainford had brought clean clothes for Church, which he changed into. The trio then drove to a house in Mitchell Avenue, where their friend Lizzie Barker lived.

The two men cleaned themselves up and tried to burn their bloodstained clothing there, while Miss Rainford used Church’s car to pick up his parents from Leeds.

She later returned to Mitchell Avenue in her own car and picked up Church, but Mr Davey said it was not known where they went. The pair later returned to the house.

The court heard Miss Rainford at some point fetched Church’s car, which she had filled up with petrol. She gave the keys to Church and got a taxi home.

Church then drove his car, which he had only bought earlier that day, taking 19-year-old Smith and another man, Christopher Coles, as passengers.

He drove as far away as South Yorkshire, stopping occasionally so that Mr Coles could get rid of pieces of clothing and other evidence.

Mr Coles later directed police to the evidence and officers found a trainer in a bin and a phone down a drain.

Police also found a balaclava with DNA matching Rashid, of Lapwing View, Horbury, in a bag in his girlfriend’s car.

Mr Davey said the three defendants, who all deny murder and possessing an offensive weapon, refused to answer questions when they were arrested.

Jurors at the murder trial heard that Church, Smith and four others had been in the public gallery at Leeds Crown Court on the morning of the day Mr Hirst was killed. They witnessed five of their friends jailed for causing trouble on Mirfield’s London Park Estate.

Church, Smith and another man, Mark Eyles, left the female members of the group – Rachel Secker, Hannah Jones and Janice Laffey – after the hearing.

Jurors were shown CCTV footage of the three women in a shop in Leeds taken shortly after the group left court.

Mr Davey said Miss Secker was filmed buying a knife there.

Jurors were then shown footage taken a few minutes later of Church, Smith and Mr Eyles in the same shop, where Church also bought a knife.

The court heard Smith, of Saville Street, Emley, already had a knife from the same shop and had left it at Miss Barker’s house in Mitchell Avenue some days earlier.

Mr Davey asked: “Why did Joe Church buy a knife on that day of all days, like his friend Aaron Smith had already done some time earlier?”

Church and Smith later bought balaclavas from a market stall in Leeds.

Mr Davey told the court they returned to Mirfield then to hunt for Mr Hirst with Rashid.

Jurors heard Mr Hirst knew the jailed men and their friends in the public gallery as the ‘London Parkers’.

Mr Davey said there was “bad blood” between Mr Hirst and the London Parkers after an “ugly incident” at Church’s home in Redlands Close, Mirfield, in May 2012.

On that occasion “mayhem” broke out after several cars, including a white car, turned up outside Church’s house.

Mr Davey said Church believed that the white car was the one owned by Mr Hirst, but he was mistaken.

The two exchanged text messages the following day when Mr Hirst found that the windows of a vehicle owned by his dad had been smashed.

The case continues.

Keep checking this website for the latest updates.