Murder accused tried to rekindle romance with ex-partner days after attempting to stab him, court hears

Dog walkers discovered Mr Preston's body the morning on August 22 lying face down at the bottom of an embankment on the edge ofthe river Ethrow, near to the Woodhead Tunnels.

Dog walkers discovered Mr Preston's body the morning on August 22 lying face down at the bottom of an embankment on the edge ofthe river Ethrow, near to the Woodhead Tunnels.

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A 34-year-old Rotherham man murdered in a lay-by received 'affectionate' text messages from his ex-partner just days after she tried to stab him in the neck, a court heard.

Shortly after his release from prison, Craig Preston told his probation worker Andrew Toft of a 'shocking' incident that had taken place between the 34-year-old, his ex-girlfriend Leonie Mason and her new partner, Shiraz Bashir in June last year.

Mr Toft told Sheffield Crown Court this morning that the incident began when Mason and Bashir, two of the five defendants on trial for Mr Preston's murder, offered him a lift home from the job in a Rotherham takeaway they had arranged for him.

He said: "He [Craig] said he had been offered a lift and Mr Bashir was driving.

"Both Mr Bashir and Ms Mason were insisting he sat in the front seat.

"During the course of the journey Ms Mason reached over and tried to stab in the neck. From my memory he said she tried to stab him with a knife.

"It was a shocking thing to hear from him on my first meeting with him."

A matter of days after the incident took place Mr Toft said Mason, 23, had begun sending him 'affectionate' text messages that Mr Preston, of Montgomery Court, Wath-upon-Dearne took to mean she wanted to rekindle their romance.

A statement from Mr Toft taken by police in August said: "Craig went on to say that Leonie had been texting him, even though she was in a relationship with Bashir.

"I can't remember exactly what they said but they were along the lines of: 'Hoping to be with you soon,' that sort of thing."

"Craig was someone who believed what he had been sent in texts," Mr Toft told the court, adding: "Based on what he told me previously about Leonie and the incident in the car, I questioned the validity of what she had been saying in the text messages."

The alleged incident in the car is one of a number of heated rows Sheffield Crown Court has been told Mr Preston had with Mason and Bashir, both of Holme Park Court, Huddersfield in the run up to his murder on August 21 last year.

During the opening of the trial yesterday, the court heard how Mason and Bashir chatted on Skype about wanting to 'do him [Mr Preston] in' on August 6, 2016.

The Crown says it was a short time after that they recruited three 15-year-old boys to the team of at least five individuals it is alleged played equal roles in beating Mr Preston to death in a lay-by near to Town Lane, Rotherham at around midnight on August 21, 2016.

The three teens cannot be named for legal reasons.

Prosecutor Dafydd Enoch told the court it is possible that a fourth teenage boy assisted Mason and Bashir in the 'brutal and senseless' murder of Mr Preston, who died from head injuries.

Dog walkers discovered Mr Preston's body the morning after the fatal beating on August 22, lying face down at the bottom of an embankment on the edge of the river Ethrow, near to the Woodhead Tunnels.

Mr Enoch said: "His trousers and underwear had been pulled down by his ankles, a sign you may think that those who dumped him there when he was dead were not averse to humiliating him further."

All five defendants deny one charge of murder.

The trial continues.