Convicted murderer had previously cut partner’s throat

Mark Watson
Mark Watson

The man recently convicted of murdering Alexandre Sokolnikov, Mark Watson, was a dangerous man with a history of knife crime.

He had clocked up a string of convictions since 1980, including being jailed in 2006 for four years for cutting his then partner’s throat with a knife, and in 2009 for possessing a bladed article.

During his trial at Lewes Crown Court, jurors heard how Watson had a troubled life. After starting drinking at the age of 13 was an alcoholic by the time he was 18.

“I can go six months, a year not drinking but when I am drinking, it’s every day,” said Watson, who admitted to drinking up to four bottles of vodka in a day.

He also told the court he had never really settled and how he had lived all over Britain as well as in Africa and the Middle East.

Watson said he would never stay in any place for more than three to six months and when he had had enough of one place he would pack up his things and walk to another town or city, sleeping rough along the way.

He said, “Normally I sleep in the woods or drainage ditches. You name it, I have slept there.”

The court heard from defence barrister, Paul Bogan, that in August 2010 Watson left Leeds and had walked south to Hastings via the country’s canal system.

He then walked along the coast to Eastbourne and arrived in October 2010.

“When I arrived in Eastbourne I wasn’t drinking and was sleeping rough,” said Watson, who did not want any of his family or friends in court during his trial.

“I began drinking just before Christmas 2010 and was using the facilities at the Salvation Army Day Centre and Oasis Outreach Project.

“I met Leah Gar at the day centre where I used to help out serving food.

“She asked me to help her move to Ceylon Place and I agreed.

“I saw her every day at the centre and she invited me to her flat for a drink. “Our relationship started on New Year’s Eve.

“I also met Alex at the day centre.

“We regular sat down and had breakfast and dinner together a lot of days. We hit it off and went out a few times.”

Watson said he had a couple of run-ins with Mr Sokolnikov over Leah but they stayed friends.

His relationship with Miss Gar continued but he said he knew it would not become anything deep.

He said, “Leah wasn’t the sort of girl who would commit and it was never going to be long-term because

“I didn’t know how long I would be around. We broke up on February 14.”

On the day of Mr Sokolnikov’s murder, Watson said he had been drinking and had met Miss Gar on the seafront to see if they could resume their relationship.

He said she did not give him a firm answer so he told her he was leaving Eastbourne.

“An hour later I got a text message from her saying she was gutted and that confused me, so that was why I went to her flat, to see what she had in mind.

“I went in and Alex was there, she said he had been staying for a few days. She had lots of male friends staying there because she didn’t like being on her own.

“Alex was sitting on the sofa and he told me to leave because he was going to get together with Leah. He was very aggressive in the way he spoke to me.

“I was angry and confused because he knew I was there to try and sort things out with her. All I wanted was for Leah to give me a definitive answer and for Alex to go for a walk around the block so we could talk.

“I decided I wanted Alex to leave because of the way he spoke to me and I knew he had been violent in the past. I expected him to get physical with me which is why I picked up the knife from the kitchen. I picked it up purely to avoid a fight.

“I went back into the sitting room and shouted his name out.

“He leapt off the sofa and threw a punch at me. I defended myself, it was an automatic reaction. I didn’t intend to stab him at all.”

• For more on the court case, see this week’s Eastbourne Herald newspaper.