Essex

Kelly Pearce murder witness accused of 'frenzied' killing

Kelly Pearce Image copyright Essex Police
Image caption Kelly Pearce, 36, died after a "frenzied attack" in a flat in Essex

A prosecution witness in the trial of a man accused of the "frenzied" murder of a woman, has been accused of carrying out the killing himself.

Kelly Pearce, 36, was found with fatal throat wounds in a flat belonging to witness Joseph Withers on Canvey Island, Essex, on 19 November.

Accused Anthony Ayres, 49, of Fairlop Avenue in Canvey, denies murdering her.

At Chelmsford Crown Court his defence claimed Mr Withers killed her and then blamed Mr Ayres who arrived later.

Ms Pearce had been stabbed 40 times in the face and neck and bludgeoned to death with a weapon "consistent" with a hammer in a "frenzied attack", the court heard.

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She sustained fatal neck wounds and skull and brain damage, and died later in hospital.

The court was told she had been attacked in the bathroom of a flat in Fairlop Avenue in Canvey, belonging to Mr Withers.

Image caption The victim was found at a flat in Fairlop Avenue on Canvey Island

On the day of the killing, Mr Withers, who described himself in police interviews as a paranoid schizophrenic, said he was briefly locked out of his flat, while Ms Pearce and Mr Ayres were inside.

When he got back in he claimed to have seen Mr Ayres swinging a hammer.

"I saw him hitting her with the hammer or something. I just saw him hitting like that," he told the court.

'You lost it'

Defence lawyer Oliver Saxby, QC, said: "It sounds like you weren't sure. Why did you say 'or something'?"

"That's best description I could give," Mr Withers replied.

He claimed he had then run from the flat to call the police.

However, Mr Saxby said: "I'm suggesting that either you lost it with her, or that there was somebody else in there who was responsible for what happened."

"It was Tony," Mr Withers replied.

He had said early in the cross-examination: "You're trying to say I attacked Kelly. I would never attack anybody. I'm scared of Kelly."

The trial continues.

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