Murder victim was best friend says accused

John Leatherbarrow, who was found dead in a flat in Leyland
John Leatherbarrow, who was found dead in a flat in Leyland

A man accused of murdering a father-of-one in a row over drugs described his victim as “probably my best friend”.

Barry Cookson, 41, told police officers he and John Leatherbarrow, 37, had been on a bike ride together the day before a fight broke out between them at Cookson’s flat in Westfield Drive, Leyland.

During a police interview shortly after the former Leyland St Mary’s Catholic Technology College pupil’s death last year, Cookson admitted Mr Leatherbarrow had taken more heroin than he had paid for a few days before he was killed.

However, he denied this was the cause of the fight in which he sustained head and stomach injuries and Mr Leatherbarrow received fatal stab wounds to his leg and buttock.

During the interview, Cookson - who says he stabbed Mr Leatherbarrow in self- defence but denies murder - was asked about a statement given by another man, Gary Irvine, who told police he had called at the flat on the morning on December 18 and saw Mr Leatherbarrow on the floor.

Mr Irvine said Cookson had told him Mr Leatherbarrow had “ripped him off” earlier in the week and had come round that morning acting as if things were “hunky dory”.

However, Cookson said he could not recall seeing Mr Irvine that day and added if there had been a problem it would have been spoken about earlier in the week.

Speaking about his relationship with Mr Leatherbarrow, Cookson told officers: “We didn’t just get heroin together. We used to go on bike rides and do all sorts.”

Cookson said there had been no argument between himself and Mr Leatherbarrow.

He claimed that Mr Leatherbarrow had “just started fighting” on the day of his death.

He described Mr Leatherbarrow hitting him with a claw hammer and said he had been crawling around on the floor when he stabbed Mr Leatherbarrow in the leg during the fight.

He then said the fight - which he described as violent - calmed down and Mr Leatherbarrow sat down in a chair at the flat.

Cookson put the hammer down the side of the fridge and moved the knife to the kitchen “so it didn’t kick off again,” he told the court.

(Proceeding)