Accused in Eastbourne murder trial says: ‘I didn’t intend to stab him’

Alexandre Sokolnikov
Alexandre Sokolnikov

A MAN accused of murdering his love rival over a woman has told a court he was acting in self-defence.

Mark Watson said he retaliated with a knife after victim Alexandre Sokolnikov spoke to him aggressively and attacked him in a row over a Watson’s ex-girlfriend at a flat in Ceylon Place in February last year.

A trial at Lewes Crown Court heard this week that Watson, who is 49 and homeless, plunged a knife into Mr Sokolnikov’s heart during the fight over Leah Gar.

But he told the jury of six men and six women, “I didn’t intend to stab him at all. I just tried to defend myself.”

The 49-year-old man denies murdering Mr Sokolnikov, known as Russian Alex. Both men were homeless and rough sleepers. They regularly met up with each other and Miss Gar at the Salvation Army Rebourne Centre and Oasis Outreach Project in the town.

The court heard Watson had been in a relationship with Miss Gar but it had broken up. When he went to visit her to see if they could get back together, Mr Sokolnikov was at her flat.

Giving evidence yesterday morning (Tuesday), Watson told the court, “I wanted to speak to Leah in private to see if we could carry on, but Alex was sitting on the sofa in the lounge and told me to leave as he wanted to get it on with Leah.

“I was angry and confused because he knew I was there to try and sort things out with her. I picked up a knife from the kitchen because of the aggressive way he had spoken to me. I wanted Alex to leave the flat because of the way he spoke to me and I knew he had been violent in the past.

“I had the knife in my hand and wanted him to know I had the knife. I shouted his name out and he leapt up off the sofa and threw a punch at me. I defended myself.

“All I ever wanted was for him to go and walk round the block for five minutes so I could talk to Leah.

“I didn’t intend to stab him at all and only picked up the knife to avoid a fight.”

Earlier in the trial the jury was told Mr Sokolnikov had staggered out into the street after being stabbed and despite the efforts of medics who opened up his heart in a torchlight operation as he lay dying on the pavement, died within an hour from his injuries. Watson was arrested inside the flat.

The jury at Lewes Crown Court also heard that Watson was an alcoholic who had been drinking up to four bottles of vodka a day in the run up to the alleged murder.

Watson said he had been drinking since the age of 13 and was an alcoholic by the time he was 18. He said he never spent time in one place for long or put down ties.

The court heard he had left Leeds in August 2010 and walked down the country using the canal systems until he reached Hastings.

He then walked to Eastbourne in October 2010 and was living rough until he began a relationship with Miss Gar over the Christmas period.

Judge Richard Brown is expected to begin his summing up today (Wednesday).