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Rescued from abuse

A MAN standing trial accused of stabbing another man in Brae last year effectively rescued a young woman from her abusive former partner, Lerwick Sheriff Court heard on Tuesday.

On day two of Sydney Peter James Johnson’s trial, witness Charlotte Jeffery told the court she had gone to stay with Johnson at his grandparents’ house after breaking off a four-year relationship with Andrew Smith – who the defendant denies stabbing on 20 January last year.

She arranged to meet Smith, who is ten years her senior, at the Northern Lights bar in Brae that day to collect some of her belongings.

Twenty two year old Jeffery arrived at the pub with Johnson and another of his friends. After Smith gave her a plastic bag containing some of her things, an argument ensued and he said some “pretty nasty things” to her.

She said Smith told her he blamed Johnson for causing the break-up, saying “it’s that fucking prick’s fault” before going across the bar and launching himself at Johnson, landing some punches before the two were quickly pulled apart.

CCTV footage showed that Smith then dragged Jeffery out of the bar and across the Brae Hotel car park towards his Citroen vehicle.

Smith tried to shove her into his car, asking: “Do you want to be with me or not?” Jeffery said she replied “no” and he responded by slicing her face with what she believed was a Stanley knife blade.

He then threw her to the ground, at which point she blacked out. “I don’t know what he’d have done if he’d got me in the car and got me away, that doesn’t bear thinking about,” she told the court.

The next thing she recalled was being back inside the Northern Lights bar. Another man, Graeme Hannah, came in to say Smith had been hurt. Johnson then uttered the words “I did it”, Jeffrey said, but “I don’t know what he actually did – to me, that could mean anything”.

Questioned by Johnson’s defence agent Tommy Allan, Jeffery said her relationship with Smith had been “fine” when he was sober. But both had drug habits which worsened during the course of their time together, and she said Smith “turned into a different person” when taking drugs and drinking.

He had been physically violent on “between 10 and 20” occasions and made numerous vulgar threats. Asked if she was terrified, she replied: “Yes, it was horrible.”

Asked if Johnson had rescued her from the relationship, she responded: “I would say he did, yes. If it wasn’t for him… I’d probably still be there now.”

She chose to meet Smith in a public place with cameras because she “didn’t think he would be stupid enough” to turn violent in that setting.

Jeffery said Smith had threatened to kill himself if she left him, and had said of Johnson that he wanted to “slice him up, put him in a peat bank and make sure he’s taken away in a hearse”.

Earlier in the day, viewing CCTV footage of the bar scuffle, police constable Graeme Johnston said it appeared Smith was “getting the better of” Johnson in a struggle lasting “only a matter of seconds”.

When police uplifted Smith’s Citroen car as part of their investigation, red stains were discovered on the floor of the driver’s side. A knife with a five-inch blade and the handle of another knife were also discovered.

The blade of another knife was later recovered on the road across from Brae Hotel. However it had been raining heavily and no forensics were found. Johnston said a test of whether the blade matched the handle found in Smith’s car was “inconclusive”.

Johnson, of Clothister, Sullom, denies brandishing a knife, wrestling with, punching and stabbing Smith to his severe injury. He also denies possessing a metal pipe and knife without reasonable excuse; disposing of both, and placing his jacket and hat in a bag belonging to another person to conceal his guilt.

The jury trial is due to resume at 11am on Wednesday.