A young Coventry man died from a single stab wound to his heart, which a jury heard was inflicted just yards from his home by a former school friend.
After stabbing 27-year-old Daniel Kennell, his alleged killer Ryan Preston was driven away from the scene by his mother, the jury at Warwick Crown Court was told.
Preston (27) of Hermitage Road, Coventry, has pleaded not guilty Mr Kennell’s murder, while his mother Tracey Preston (54) of the same address, has denied assisting an offender.
Prosecutor John Butterfield QC said: “This case is one of murder. In the middle of a warm sunny day on Sunday the 8th of July last year, a young man called Daniel Kennell was stabbed to death.
“The stabbing took place following an altercation on the road where he lived, St Austell Road in the Wyken area.”
Mr Butterfield pointed out the World Cup was ‘in full swing’ at that time, and the incident took place the day after England had beaten Sweden in the quarter-finals.
“Daniel Kennell never got to support England in the semi-final, because the morning after that Sweden game he was killed at the blade of a knife when he was stabbed on the street.”
He said Ryan Preston was responsible for the murder, and was assisted by his mother who was there at the time and drove him away from the scene as Mr Kennell lay dying.
The two men had known each-other since they were at school together, and although they ‘had had their ups and downs,’ they had continued to associate with each-other.
Mr Butterfield said Preston had a hang-up about a former girlfriend and, although it did not seem to have any basis, he suspected Mr Kennell was ‘carrying on behind his back’ with her.
On the morning of the stabbing a CCTV camera captured Preston’s car arriving at Caludon Castle park, and it was likely Mr Kennell was his passenger.
They were picked up again three hours later at around 11.25 in the car park area where, for some reason, they were fighting or scuffling with each-other, during which Mr Kennell, who was bare-chested, put Preston to the ground.
Around that time Preston phoned his mother who drove to the park, but as the fight continued he swung out at Mr Kennell and something, possibly his phone, flew from his hand and was picked up by Mr Kennell who threw it away.
Once the scuffling in the park was over Mr Kennell made his way back to his home half a mile away in St Austell Road, where he lived with his parents, on foot.
Meanwhile Tracey Preston picked up her son in her car and they drove to St Austell Road ‘looking to intercept Mr Kennell,’ and arrived about a minute before he did.
“Ryan Preston got out of his Mum’s car in a rage. He went outside of Daniel Kennell’s house and from the street was bellowing for Daniel to come out. That request wasn’t met because Mr Kennell hadn’t yet got back to the street.”
When he got no response, he threw something at one of the windows, then turned his attention to Mr Kennell’s car, throwing a paving slab at the windscreen which splintered but did not smash completely.
“The likely order of events is that Ryan Preston was so absorbed in those acts of violence against property that he was the slower to see Daniel Kennnell walking back.
“So it was that as Daniel Kennell returned on foot there was first a confrontation with Tracey Preston. She confronted Mr Kennell, and she was asking him what was in his pockets.”
Mr Butterfield said that would suggest she believed he had stolen something from her son, and she was ‘less than calm.’
“At some point after Daniel Kennell’s interaction with her, the two young men have seen each other there on St Austell’s Road and their argument immediately started up again.
“It quickly came to blows. I’m not suggesting that Mr Kennell was completely passive. It seems likely he aimed at least one punch at Ryan Preston.”
But Mr Butterfield said that was ‘pretty minor’ compared to the aggression and threat being offered by Ryan Preston.
“Certainly not enough to make Mr Kennell the true aggressor… and not nearly enough to offer up any profound sense of threat or danger to Mr Preston so as to justify the defendant choosing to take his knife and stab with it.
“But Ryan Preston was not prepared at this point to have any sort of fair fight, perhaps mindful of how he’d been put on the ground earlier on back in the park.
“At this stage, the defendant was indeed armed with a knife, and he lashed out with that knife at least once.
“It was a single stab wound – but that was all that Ryan Preston needed. The wound was on the left lower chest. It was deep enough to penetrate Mr Kennell’s heart, as well as to cause damage internally to both the stomach and the spleen.”
Having fatally injured Mr Kennell, he returned to his mother’s car, got in and asked her to drive away, which she did.
“Even in those circumstances she was prepared to continue to help him regardless. She drove him away from the scene where he had stabbed a man, a 27 year old who lay dying on the pavement even as she did so.”
She drove him back to the park where he got back into his own car, and she then ‘went calmly home.’
Meanwhile the emergency services had been called, and paramedics fought unsuccessfully to save Mr Kennell.
The police traced Tracey’s car, and she was arrested at her home, while Ryan was arrested at his sister’s home.
When he was interviewed Ryan Preston gave ‘no comment’ answers – but in a statement he tried to portray Mr Kennell as a bully who had attacked him and taken his phone and car keys.
He accepted damaging Mr Kennell’s car, but claimed Mr Kennell was then the aggressor and came at him ‘like a mad bull.’
He said he only got the knife out to protect himself by scaring Mr Kennell away, and that Mr Kennell had got injured in the ensuing scuffle – and he did not realise he had been stabbed until he fell.
Preston said he did not know what had happened to the knife, and believed he had left it there, prompting Mr Butterfield to comment: “If that’s to be believed, then it seems to be a knife which has an unusual ability to disappear into thin air.”
Mr Butterfield said both men were ‘enthusiastic users’ of cocaine, and it was suggested by Preston that one reason they were arguing was that Mr Kennell was demanding to be given cocaine.
But medical tests showed they had both consumed cocaine, and Mr Kennell had more in the pocket of the top he was carrying, which led Mr Butterfield to ask: “Why would he have needed to badger Ryan Preston for cocaine when he already had some?”
In her interview Tracey Preston said she had been out shopping when she had a call from her son saying Danny had gone off with his car keys and could she bring him the spare key.
She said she went straight to Caludon park to see what was going on, and that her son asked her to drive to Danny’s house, which she did, looking out for Mr Kennell on the way.
Tracey said that as her son went to the she manoeuvred up and down in the car and then saw Danny, so went to speak to him and demanded the car key which she said he gave her.
She said a little later, she saw Danny and her son moving towards each other in the street, goading each other, but that she did not see anything further as she then turned her car round.
She added that once she had parked back up, Ryan got in the passenger seat and told her ‘just go Mum,’ but did not say anything to suggest he had just stabbed someone.
Of Tracey Preston’s actions, Mr Butterfield told the jury: “Every parent, quite rightly, has a loyalty to their child, a fierce loyalty. But there’s also plain right and wrong.
“Helping him get away from having stabbed a man in the street is not any kind of grey area, it’s just plain wrong.”
And he suggested that, far from acting in self-defence, Ryan Preston had been ‘steaming with rage’ and was the aggressor. The trial continues.