Downward spiral ended in murder of dad of two

THE wife and brother of murder victim Andrew Smart gave evidence at the trial of his alleged killers this week, telling of the downward spiral that led to the former high-flyer and family man dying in drunken squalor.

Andrew Smart was found lying in a pool of dried blood in his bedroom in Sibthorpe Street, North Shields, on February 28 last year, two days after his death.

Stephen Kirkpatrick, Ryan Leck and Ryan Saint, all also of North Shields, are accused of murdering the 47-year-old.

His wife of 20 years, Nicola Smart, gave evidence before a jury at Newcastle Crown Court yesterday.

Mrs Smart told the jury about a telephone conversation with her estranged husband just hours before he was killed in which he had seemed upbeat.

She said he had told her about the new laptop computer his brother David had bought him after his was stolen in a burglary a few days earlier.

But when she woke up the next morning she found a “distressed” answerphone message he had left for her just two hours after their conversation.

In the message, he told her he was “fed up” and wanted to move back to Surrey to live with her and the children, saying: “It’s happened again”. Mrs Smart told the jury she thought Mr Smart was referring to his new laptop also being stolen.

She tried to contact the father of her two children several times, but her calls went unanswered.

The couple, who met at Hull University as students and settled in Surrey, had separated in 2008 due to Mr Smart’s excessive drinking, which had cost him his £100,000-a-year job as a self-employed software engineer.

She said: “In 1997, around the time our son was born, my husband’s mother died.

“It hit him very badly, and he started drinking spirits. By 2003, his drinking became quite a serious problem.”

Mrs Smart said his drinking had got so bad that relatives had stopped visiting them and her husband, a former pupil of Tynemouth’s King’s School, had been admitted to hospital several times.

Mr Smart moved into a flat in Prudhoe Terrace in his native Tynemouth less than a year before his death, after getting in touch with an old friend on a social networking site.

Also giving evidence, his brother David Smart said: “He seemed to be drinking quite a lot. His health wasn’t very good.

“He was quite frail and fragile, I think both mentally and physically.

“I visited the flat, and it was in quite a state really. He just couldn’t look after himself or the flat. It was a mess.”

Mr Smart was admitted to North Tyneside General Hospital in August 2009 and spent three months being treated for a serious liver condition, caused by his consumption of alcohol.

David Smart said: “They thought it was life-threatening. He was really ill. It was really upsetting to see.

“We were really surprised he recovered so well.”

When Mr Smart was discharged from hospital he stayed at the George Square homeless hostel before he moved to Sibthorpe Street three months before his death.

The jury had previously heard that Mr Smart, who lived alone in the one bedroom flat, died from a combination of injuries.

Opening the case on Tuesday, prosecutor Paul Greaney told the court that the three defendants in the case targeted Mr Smart and exploited him for financial gain.

He said: “For a reason known only to them, but related to financial exploitation, the violence against him took a serious turn.

“He was put to the ground and attacked.

“The attack took the form of his body and his head being stamped on very forcefully and repeatedly.

“As a result, he suffered head, chest and abdominal injuries, and he died as a result of a combination of those injuries.”

The jury heard that on the night of Mr Smart’s death several telephone calls were made from the landline in his flat, which the prosecution claim were made by the defendants.

The prosecution also say a number of footprints found around Mr Smart’s body place all three defendants at the scene.

Kirkpatrick, 20, of Balkwell Green, Saint, 21, of George Square, and Ryan Leck, 19, of Lower Rudyerd Street, all deny murder. Saint and Leck also deny stealing from Mr Smart prior to his death.

The trial continues.