Driver ‘stabbed to death in front of son, 4, by man in row over crossing road’

Left: police at the scene
Right: A photo of James Stokoe smiling and wearing a yellow bow tie
Married dad James Stokoe, pictured, was stabbed four times and died of his injuries (Picture: NCJ)

A driver who had his son in the car was stabbed four times with a carving knife by a pedestrian who stepped into the road, a court heard.

Married dad-of-one James Stokoe, 40, had to do an emergency stop to avoid running him over with his BMW in the street in Teesside on May 15 last year.

He pulled over and got out the car, shouting angrily at Alexander Layton, 34, about the near miss asking ‘Are you f***ing daft? I nearly knocked you over’, witnesses told a trial.

Layton, who was by then on the other side of the road, apparently shouted back: ‘Are you talking to me? F*** off. I’m here. Come over. Come on.’

Mr Stokoe got back in his car and drove over. After this the defendant reached into the vehicle and stabbed him three times in the leg and once in the arm, severing his femoral artery, the court heard.

Peter Makepeace QC, prosecuting, told how he calmly picked up his shopping and rucksack, walked off and put the knife into his rucksack, and left Mr Stokoe fatally wounded in the car.

Someone called 999 and the air ambulance flew to the scene, but he died from his injuries in the back of an ambulance.

Police at the scene on Trenchyard Avenue, Thornaby, Teesside (Picture: Terry Blackburn)

His wife, a lab technician at Durham University, even called him to warn that traffic was bad in the area due to the ongoing incident, the court heard.

Layton was said to have fled the scene, dumped the carving knife, and went camping in Great Ayton, before he was arrested the next night in a pizza shop.

He was seen on CCTV walking away from the scene and going back to his flat, where he text friends, the court heard.

Prosecutors said there was ‘not a hint’ of what he had just done and the messages were chatty and friendly.

The knife has not been found, but a witness managed to get a photo of it. When police searched Layton’s home, they found that the largest knife from his set was missing.

Peter Makepeace QC, prosecuting, said Mr Makepeace said Layton told police it had been an ‘accident’, he had not meant to do it and ‘it only went into his leg’.

He said he gave detectives a statement claiming he was acting in self-defence and was scared.

But Mr Makepeace alleged he ‘acted in a calm, considered but brutal manner’ when he stabbed garage worker Mr Stokoe.

Layton, of Thornaby, was charged with murder and possessing an offensive weapon and is now on trial at Teesside Crown Court.

The jury heard that just before the incident he had got off a bus after visiting a food bank.

James Stokoe, pictured, was on his way to visit his son’s grandparents

He then crossed a busy main road, causing Mr Stokoe to brake sharply.

The dad had been taking his son, strapped in a car seat, to see his grandparents and planned to viewing a house he might buy later on when he encountered the defendant at around 2pm.

Mr Makepeace told the jury that the alleged murder was ‘witnessed by several passers-by’.

He said: ‘It was a verbal dispute and it followed a near miss after this defendant went on to Trenchard Avenue, seemingly without looking or paying attention, into the path of Mr Stokoe’s BMW.

‘During the verbal exchange, Mr Layton pulled out a large carving knife and repeatedly stabbed Mr Stokoe, who bled to death within minutes.’

CCTV and dashcam footage showed Layton getting off the bus, almost being run over, then stabbing Mr Stokoe four times.

In the hours immediately before the attack, Layton had threatened to murder a man who owed him money, and his family, the court heard.

Earlier still on the same day he had texted a contact to share conspiracy theories about 5G masts, Mr Makepeace said.

In the early hours of that day, he also emailed Stockton Borough Council to say he needed help with food and fuel and was feeling suicidal.

Mr Makepeace said: ‘Clearly Mr Stokoe must have been shocked, indeed angry, about the near miss that had occurred.

‘That might have been compounded by the fact (his son) was in a booster seat in the back of the car.’

But, the prosecution said, that did not explain or excuse Layton’s actions.

The trial continues

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