DRUG DEALER 'SHOT SUPPLIER IN HEAD'

A Birkenshaw drug dealer shot his supplier in the head in a revenge attack – three years to the day after a brutal beating with a baseball bat and after continuing intimidation over drugs debts, a jury heard.

Nick Hickson, who moved to Royds Avenue with his girlfriend and her two children only days before the shooting, arranged to meet former Wyke Manor School pupil Philip Smith at an isolated lay-by in Tong, Bradford, on February 19 last year and took a loaded shotgun with him, Leeds Crown Court heard.

The body of Mr Smith, a 29-year-old used car dealer from Pudsey, was found next morning with gunshot wounds to the head and neck.

Mr Franz Muller QC, prosecuting, told the jury Mr Smith had got into Hickson's van and been shot out of revenge – a "final settling of the score".

Hickson had admitted the killing to police but said the gun went off accidentally. He denied he had fired again "to finish him off".

He pleaded guilty to supplying drugs but denies murder.

The court heard Hickson was scared to death of Mr Smith, who had broken his leg over a missing consignment of drugs three years before and threatened to kill him and his family.

Mr Muller said that in February 1999 Mr Smith had given Hickson a large quantity of cannabis and Ecstasy to look after, which Hickson "a smaller scale drug dealer" had buried in woodland off Birkenshaw Lane.

When police uncovered the drugs, Mr Smith blamed Hickson and demanded the cash equivalent – 8,500. Mr Muller said this triggered a chain of events leading to the shooting.

Mr Smith, a keen body-builder, beat Hickson with a baseball bat later that month, breaking his thigh bone and a facial bone and injuring his upper back.

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Neil Thompson, who had received cannabis from Hickson, visited the defendant in Dewsbury District Hospital where Hickson told him Mr Smith had been responsible for his injuries.

He said: "His leg was smashed and his face was swollen. He had two black eyes; he was in a state.

"Everyone knew he was scared to death of Phil Smith."

Linda Hickson, of Birkenshaw, the defendant's mother, said her son had become edgy and preoccupied following the baseball bat attack.

"He didn't want to pick up the phone," she said. "He worked seven days a week but there was no evidence of any money." She said the family had clubbed together to lend him 3,500.

Mr Smith, who according to his friend Mark Barrett made 9,000 a week from drugs, had later refused to take back a block of contaminated cannabis which Hickson could not sell, and the debt rose to 17,500.

Mr Barrett added Mr Smith had been using a rented pitch at Birkenshaw Motors and was buying and selling cars to launder the drugs money.

Mr Smith's girlfriend Teresa Smith, with whom he had a two-year-old son, told the jury Hickson had regularly visited their home to deliver washing powder boxes full of 20 notes, which she understood was drugs money.

She also admitted Mr Smith had once driven his car into the man who owned the pitch at Birkenshaw Motors over an unpaid debt of 50,000, prompting the victim to immediately begin paying in installments.

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She said Mr Smith had received a mobile phone call from Hickson at about 5pm on the night of his death, had gone out, returned for supper and had left again for the last time.

Mr Muller said Hickson claimed Mr Smith demanded money from him and continued to pressure him to settle the debt until he felt so trapped he decided to confront the other man and "extricate himself from this intimidation".

Lee Harris, a friend and customer of Hickson's, told the court that earlier that day he had returned a shotgun, used for foxing, to the defendant on his request.

He said: "Nick seemed to be very nervous and in a rush."

Mr Thompson said he had supplied Hickson with shotgun cartridges that would "knock a fox over" just days before the event and late on the night of the shooting Hickson had called and asked him for an alibi.

According to Mr Thompson Hickson had said: "The teddy bear's had his last picnic, who's kneecapping now?"

When Hickson called again the next morning Mr Thompson had begun to believe he had killed Mr Smith.

"Alarm bells were ringing," he told the court. "He said there'd been a bit of an accident and hinted that Phil Smith was dead. I said I didn't want to know."

The case continues.