Row over £5 debt led to 'fatal stabbing and slashing' court hears

Liam Humphreys, 28, who was stabbed to death in Hillaby Close, Toxteth, on December 10
-Credit: (Image: Merseyide Police)


A murder suspect stabbed a man to death, knifed another in the chest and slashed his ex-girlfriend in the face after "bickering" over a £5 debt and a vacuum cleaner, a court heard.

Ian Scott plunged the weapon into Liam Humphreys' heart before leaving him bleeding and fatally wounded in the stairwell of a block of flats on Hillaby Close in Toxteth. He was reportedly "angry, threatening and determined to fight" with the 28-year-old, the deceased's friend Tamas Jonas and his former partner Rebecca Scott - with who he was "quarrelling" following their breakup - at the time of the incident.

The 38-year-old defendant then cycled away from the scene, still clutching the knife, before "disguising himself" in workmen's clothing and sparking a police "manhunt". Scott went on trial today at Liverpool Crown Court accused of Mr Humphreys' murder but claims to have acted in self defence, having allegedly been subjected to an "unprovoked attack".

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Tim Storrie KC told a jury of four men and eight women during the prosecution's opening this afternoon, Wednesday: "On Sunday the 10th of December last year, the defendant, Ian Scott, armed himself with knives, left his flat and went down a series of stairs to a door so that he could confront a group of three people with violence. That group contained a woman named Rebecca Scott and her companions - a man named Liam Humphreys and another, Tamas Jonas.

"Well, what happened next? Violence overwhelmed all three of them.

"Each of them was the subject of a knife attack, and the man the prosecution say was responsible was Ian Scott. In the course of the fight, Ian Scott killed Liam Humphreys by stabbing him to his chest.

"Tamas Jonas suffered a similar wound. There were attempts to stab him but, ultimately, he received a wound that penetrated deep into his abdomen. It caused him catastrophic injury. It was the sort of wound you may think that you would inflict if you had wished someone dead.

"Rebecca Scott received a slash wound to her face with a knife. The weapon was drawn across her face, and the wound extended from her ear towards her mouth.

"We say that this defendant was angry, threatening and determined to fight these three people. We say that he intended that they should suffer, at the very least, really serious harm, and so it was that he picked up a knife and deliberately stabbed them with the consequence that one was dead and the other two seriously injured.

"You will hear that Ian Scott's case is that he only ever acted in reasonable self defence and that it was he that was the subject of an unprovoked attack, and that his actions were out of an honest instinct to defend himself. Whether you can be sure of the prosecution's case and where the truth lies, you will ultimately decide."

Jurors heard Scott and Mr Humphreys were not known to each other prior to the day in question, and that the latter had only been in the area that day as he was a friend of Ms Scott. Mr Jonas was similarly a stranger to the defendant and was said to have been present as he was meeting the deceased to "help him with his family and with his pets".

Thirty-year-old Ms Scott was no relation to the accused, but was a "near neighbour" of his on Hillaby Close and had previously been in a relationship with him. However, this "quickly soured" and the former couple had "recently bickered over items of property" in a series of messages.

Ms Scott was said to have "wanted the return of £5" and a massage chair, while Scott reportedly "demanded the return of a vacuum cleaner". Mr Storrie, who was assisted by junior counsel Frances Willmott, said: "Now, seen against the background of everything that was about to occur, you will doubtless agree that these arguments were inexpressibly trivial in nature, but it was these arguments and these exchanges that explain how events unfolded on Sunday the 10th of December.

"That day, the pair quarrelled. Rebecca Scott was the subject of abusive remarks and of threats.

"These remarks and threats occurred when the defendant came down from his address to confront her, and continued through the course of the morning of that day. You may think and you may have to judge whether it was a natural response for Rebecca Scott to want to have people around her, those whom, she thought, might deter him from this sort of behaviour."

Ms Scott's sister Jaelyn Bonner then contacted Mr Humphreys, who "said he would come down, alongside his friend Tamas Jonas, to offer a reassuring presence". They arrived at the address shortly before 12.45pm - only 10 minutes before the "violent confrontation in which Liam Humphreys lost his life", which was partially captured by CCTV cameras.

Scott was said to have "continued to shout from above", having apparently been "inflamed by the presence" of the two men as they and Ms Scott gathered near to the communal entrance to his building. Mr Storrie told the court: "There was a point when Tamas Jonas, Liam Humphreys and Rebecca Scott advanced on the communal door of the flats at Hillaby Close.

"Up in his flat, he could have done many things. He could, for example, have ignored them. But he did no such thing. We say, that is because it is clear that he wanted a violent confrontation."

Scott was allegedly told "come down here and say that" in response to remarks he had made, at which he "did not hesitate to respond that he would". Mr Storrie continued: "Did the three people on the street expect violence?

"Well it is clear, you may think, that Liam Humphreys at least thought there was a risk of violence. He decided upon a dog chain as some kind of makeshift weapon.

"You may also think, given the tone of the exchanges that had occurred, that there was to anybody an obvious real risk of violence which these people would have perceived would likely arise from the arrival of the defendant. There is an apparent lunge by Liam Humphreys as he sees the defendant at the door and as it is opened.

"In these early seconds, it would have been obvious to those who were there that the defendant was armed with a blade and it might have felt to Liam Humphreys as though the defendant might even back away. But, two-and-a-half minutes later, as you will see when people exit, the outcome has become clear.

"The violence that had occurred was unsparing. Tamas Jonas emerged from the building first.

"He was calling for help. Damage to his jacket revealed a number of attempts to stab him. He himself had been stabbed to the abdomen and was presently to collapse. But not before he called 999.

"Mr Jonas had called 999. He was followed by Rebecca Scott, who was clutching the right side of her face. She was to seek help in a nearby shop. Within the building, lying in a stairwell, Liam Humphreys had sustained the wound to his heart that was to kill him.

"In the same instant, this defendant was seen fleeing the scene on a bicycle. You will see the moment when Ian Scott left Hillaby Close, the knife in his hand. We will see him later. He had fled the scene.

"He had disposed of the knife in the hope that it would not be found. He had got rid of his bike.

"He had not called the police and complained that he had been attacked. He had, in fact, disguised himself in workman’s gear, walking down a street nearby."

Scott was caught on camera walking down nearby Loudon Grove shortly after 1.45pm holding a football and with his hood up, wearing a hi-vis jacket and a hard hat "in the hope that he would not be identified". Police and paramedics meanwhile attended the scene and found Mr Humphreys "with an obvious wound to his chest".

He was rushed to the Royal Liverpool Hospital and subsequently underwent emergency surgery, but was pronounced dead at 2.45pm. A post-mortem examination later found that the knife had "passed between his ribs and penetrated his heart".

Mr Jonas was taken to Aintree Hospital and operated upon, the weapon having "gone straight through his colon". Ms Scott too required surgery to repair her facial injury.

Forensic scientists found "at least four areas of damage" to Mr Humphreys' coat as a result of Scott's apparent "persistent attempts to harm him with a knife". A further two cuts were found to Mr Jonas' jacket, indicating "the defendant’s persistent use of a knife in the course of the struggle".

The altercation was said to have led to a "manhunt" by Merseyside Police, but Scott handed himself in at St Anne Street Police Station two days later on the evening of December 12. He presented with some injuries and gave a prepared statement to detectives under interview "setting out an account that he had been compelled to defend himself and that he had equipped himself with a knife", described as a "small knife" which he claimed he had armed himself with "as a deterrent".

However, he alleged he had been pursued to his flat and "cornered". Mr Storrie added: "The last thing he said he wanted to do was to hurt anyone."

Scott, who appeared in the dock wearing a white shirt and grey tie and sporting a shaved head, also stated he had not been abusive towards his former partner and was "only going to the flat door to reason with the men and her". But he said the three had then "chased him to his own front door, which he could barely close against the weight of them" before taking his bicycle and walking downstairs, at which he threw a knife at them "in frustration".

This reportedly sparked them to run back up to his apartment, leading to a "physical struggle" on the landing outside his property. Scott claimed he had "begged them to leave him alone" but that his ex was "full of rage", and that he had brandished the weapon "in the hope that they would leave him alone".

He said he had struck Ms Scott "by accident at he swung his arms around" and left "only with the intention of freeing himself from the prospect of further attack". Mr Storrie added: "It is Ian Scott’s case that he accepts stabbing and killing Liam Humphreys.

"He accepts stabbing Tamas Jonas and Rebecca Scott, but he says that these events are explained by the fact that he needed to defend himself. You may want to take care to ask yourselves this.

"What was the truth about his behaviour towards Rebecca Scott? Did that behaviour demonstrate that he was in fact the source of threats?

"What was his true intention when he decided to equip himself with not one but two weapons, weapons which he must have known were capable of causing devastating harm? And what were the precise circumstances in which these three people sustained injuries that were incomparable in severity to any injuries he suffered?"

Scott - who is represented by Nigel Power KC and Sarah Holt - denies Mr Humphreys' murder, attempting to murder Mr Jonas and wounding with intent against both him and Ms Scott. The trial, before Mr Justice Freedman, continues and is expected to last for three to four weeks.

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