Defendant ‘said he had sorted’ Sheffield drugs debt days after pensioner was robbed and murdered

John Gogarty

John Gogarty

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A defendant accused of robbing and murdering a pensioner told an acquaintance he had ‘sorted’ out a drugs debt days after the killing, a court heard.

Ian Birley and his girlfriend Helen Nichols are accused of killing Wombwell property developer John Gogarty on July 13 this year after stealing money from him to pay back £500 for some crack cocaine Birley had bought from a Sheffield drug dealer.

Mr Gogarty was stabbed 69 times in his own home after his bank card was taken from him and £500 withdrawn from his account.

Birley, 43, and Nichols, 38, both of Mont Walk, Wombwell, deny murder.

Randall Beck, an acquaintance of Birley, told a jury at Sheffield Crown Court yesterday that the defendant had told him he owed a drug dealer from Sheffield between £400 and £500.

He said Birley had said he had been threatened over the debt, with cigarettes posted through his letterbox and a petrol can left outside his front door.

Mr Beck said Birley had told him of a plan to rob another man called Kevin Doran so he could pay off the drug dealer.

Mr Gogarty’s body was found on July 17 and Mr Beck said he had seen both Birley and Nichols at a friend’s flat on July 18.

He said the pair ‘seemed to be drugged up’.

Mr Beck said when he asked Birley about the problem with the drug dealer, ‘he said he had sorted it’.

Another witness Wayne Warburton also gave evidence to the jury and accepted he had given a statement to the police on July 25 saying Birley had previously told him he ‘was going to rob Irish Paddy’ - a nickname Mr Gogarty was known by due to him originally being from Ireland.

But Mr Warburton said in court that he had been ‘under the influence’ when he made the statement.

He said: “A lot of things get said under the influence of drink.”

He agreed with Andrew Robertson QC, representing Birley, that ‘untruthful things get said under the influence of alcohol’ and that had been the case with his statement.

Earlier in his evidence, Mr Warburton had said a couple of days after Mr Gogarty’s body being found on July 17, Birley had come to his house and asked him if he wanted to buy some watches.

He said Birley told him he had ‘acquired’ the two watches, but did not say where from. The trial continues.