A retired businessman was murdered in his own home in Wrexham by a young man who targeted the elderly, a court was told today.
Jordan Davidson, 25, admitted at Mold Crown Court that he murdered Nicholas Churton, 67, on March 23 – together with a series of 12 associated offences.
Opening the case against him, prosecuting barrister Andrew Thomas QC said the victim lived alone in a one-bedroom flat in Crescent Close, Wrexham.
He was disabled and had restricted mobility.
Mr Churton was found dead in the living room of his flat.
A friend, Colin Pemberton, had become concerned that Mr Churton had failed to keep an appointment to meet over the weekend.
He went looking for him and found Mr Churton lying dead on the sofa in the living room, having suffered major head injuries.
“We now know that Jordan Davidson murdered Mr Churton on the previous Thursday night.
“Two weapons were used in the attack: a large machete and a hammer,” said Mr Thomas.
Jordan Davidson was eventually arrested in the early hours of Wednesday, March 29.
Most of the associated charges were committed in the days just before and just after the murder.
Three offences followed his arrest - assaults on the arresting officer, a detective who conducted the interviews, and a prison officer.
Those offences included four offences of assault – three of them wounding with intent – an aggravated burglary, two robberies and an attempted robbery and offences of burglary and an aggravated vehicle taking.
Mr Thomas said that three of the offences, including the murder, were attacks on older men.
The defendant targeted vulnerable victims, he said, and four of the offences involved the use of a machete.
“Three of the offences involved the use of a hammer as a weapon,” he said.
The court heard that Nicholas Churton originally qualified as an accountant.
He had worked overseas in southern Africa, but returned to the UK to set up a business on his own in the 1980s.
For many years he was a well-known and successful local businessman, with restaurants in Rossett near Wrexham and at Tarporley in Cheshire.
He was a family man with children and more recently grandchildren.
In his later years, Mr Churton had become prone to drinking. He had sold the businesses in 2005 and at about the same time he had separated from his wife.
For several years he led an unsettled life, but in October last year he had found accommodation at a rented flat in Crescent Close, on the edge of the Caia Park estate.
He lived alone.
By the time of his death, Mr Churton was physically frail and disabled.
He had suffered a fractured hip as a result of a fall. He was still mobile but he had to use a walking frame to travel any distance.
Mr Churton’s family continued to help and support him. He had spoken to his ex-wife on the day of his death.
They had one grandchild and another on the way, and had discussed about arrangements to see them.
His family were concerned that he was vulnerable to exploitation. He still had some money - a small amount of savings which was left over after his divorce.
That fact tended to attract certain people to him. His brother describes him as ‘an easy target’, said Mr Thomas.
The court heard Davidson had a significant number of previous convictions, most of which are for offences of dwelling house burglary.
In April 2015, the defendant received a sentence of three years imprisonment for offences of burglary and attempted burglary.
He served his sentence at HMP Parc in South Wales.
While there, he was charged with unlawful possession of a knife in prison. At Cardiff Crown Court in January 2016, he pleaded guilty and received a consecutive sentence of 12 months imprisonment.
Prosecuting barrister Andrew Thomas QC said the defendant was released on licence on December 9, 2016.
He still had two years to serve on licence and all the offences were committed on licence.
One of the triggers for the defendant’s offending in March 2017 was that he breached his licence and he knew that he was going to be returned to prison, said Mr Thomas.
After his release, the defendant returned to the Wrexham area. He was placed in refuge accommodation on Crescent Road in Wrexham, a hostel just around the corner from Crescent Close where Mr Churton was living. Mr Thomas said that may explain how they had become acquaintances.
It was suggested that Mr Churton had on occasions bought cannabis from the defendant, at least that was what the defendant said.
The defendant was evicted from his hostel after a few weeks. He was homeless and appears to have stayed with various friends and acquaintances in the area.
During this time he became involved with a 15-year-old schoolgirl.
Mr Thomas said that was relevant because text messages had been recovered which showed that the defendant was in frequent contact with her immediately before and after the killing.
“The messages show the defendant’s state of mind and reveal much of his motives for committing the offence,” said Mr Thomas.
She was a vulnerable young girl with support workers.
“One of the triggers for the defendant’s behaviour appears to have been a complaint made to North Wales police that the defendant had sexually assaulted her.”
No charge was brought against the defendant, but the very fact that the police were investigating him for an allegation of sexual assault triggered a reaction from him, said Mr Thomas.
He said the defendant was infatuated with the girl and was a trigger for the defendant’s behaviour on the night of the murder.
“The text messages show that it was that relationship which was dominating his thoughts at the time of the offence.
“It is not only the content but the very fact that he is messaging her - at times every minute - and giving a running commentary of his own actions,” said Mr Thomas.
The defendant had been charged with robbing Mr Churton and although that charge had not been proceeded with, it was relevant to say that in the week leading up to the murder Nicholas Churton and Jordan Davidson had fallen out, said Mr Thomas.
On March 13, Mr Churton telephoned North Wales police alleging that the defendant had threatened him with a hammer and caused damage to his flat.
Davidson had always denied that allegation but Mr Churton persisted in his complaint to the police. He made several phone calls and gave a detailed account and even had the locks changed on his flat.
Davidson was aware of the allegation.
“He has always protested his innocence. Again, this disagreement may have been a trigger for the defendant’s conduct,” said Mr Thomas.
“It may also have contributed to the selection of Mr Churton as a victim.”
Mold Crown Court was also told that Davidson posed with the murder weapon for a mobile phone photograph and called it his “new toy”.
On about March 13, Davidson acquired a machete. It was black in colour and had a large blade. One edge was sharp and curved, but the other was serrated.
“This is the weapon which he later used to kill Nicholas Churton,” said Mr Thomas.
He posed with it and had his face masked by his clothing.
He also used it to commit three of the associated offences.
“We know that the defendant had the machete by this date because he had pictures taken of himself posing with it.
“The data associated with these photographs in the phone memory show that they were taken at about 5pm on March 13.
The machete was not the only weapon which he had at about that time.
He was also carrying an axe.
He took it with him to a friend’s house on March 18. He was drunk. His friends were unimpressed at his behaviour and took the axe off him.
It was later handed to the police after the defendant’s arrest.
In the early hours of Sunday, March 19 , Davidson was arrested in Wrexham town centre for unlawful possession of a knife.
He had gone out drinking with friends that night and took a knife with him. Davidson had it with him inside a nightclub. He left at about 4am then became involved in an altercation with a group of men in a car park at the bottom of Town Hill.
When the police arrived, they found that the defendant had taken his shirt off and was aggressively shouting at the other group, trying to start a fight. The police detained him. As they did so, they noticed the handle of the knife sticking out his trouser pocket.
The defendant tried to throw the knife away but was caught in the act. It was a folding knife with a 3 inch blade.
By March 20, steps were being taken to revoke his licence.
The court heard Davidson told a schoolgirl who he had become obsessed with that he could guarantee that armed police would shoot him dead.
Prosecuting barrister Andrew Thomas said the defendant sent a message to the girl: “I am on a wild one. Dis boy outta control. Woop woop.”
There were further messages: “Wat u guunna do wiv ya self wen iam gone?”
Asked what he meant he said: “Gone not around anymore finished dead. I'm guna make it guarantee u armed police are guna av to finish me off.”
When the girl said they would not kill him and were just looking for him, he said: “Dey’ll shoot me double tap dead wen I run at them with da chette kid xxx”.
On March 22, the defendant committed two separate burglaries at opposite ends of Caia Park.
The first of the offences was at a flat in Crescent Close, the cul-de-sac where Mr Churton lived.
Mr Thomas said the occupier was at home at the time.
He heard the front door open then shut again. He ran out and confronted the defendant as he was walking away.
The defendant said “Sorry mate, wrong house”.
Davidson had taken the keys to his flat and to his car, a Vauxhall Corsa. A short time later, the defendant returned and took the car.
At about 4.45pm the same day, Davidson committed a second burglary, at Tan-y-Dre, Caia Park. He smashed a window to gain entry.
Mr Thomas said the occupier was alerted by a neighbour.
She went back to the house with her mother to see the defendant walking away with her TV and duvet.
Mr Thomas said she confronted Davidson who dropped the items and ran off.
The defendant appeared to have made off in the stolen Vauxhall Corsa.
A short while later, at about 5.30pm, he was involved in a minor road traffic collision while driving the Corsa along Queensway, Caia Park. He abandoned the car and ran off.
Mr Thomas said that the context for the offences on March 23 could be seen in the text messages. The messages between the defendant and girl were abusive.
At 5pm Davidson attempted to rob the Unique Hair and Beauty Salon, near to the Queensway athletics stadium.
Mr Thomas said CCTV showed the defendant arriving outside the shop on a bike, and with a mask over his face. The machete was hidden under his clothing.
He walked into the shop brandishing the machete, threatening four female members of staff. He demanded that they open the till, holding the machete above his head and at one point to the chest of one of the staff.
They refused to cooperate. They were joined by a male member of staff from the shop next door. When the defendant saw that people were standing up to him, he backed off.
He ran out and made off on a pushbike and the CCTV showed him with the machete in his hand.
Immediately after the attempted robbery Davidson sent the girl a message boasting about what he had done.
He also rang her and said: “I’ve gone up a level, you’ll see”.
Later he rang again. He said: “I’ve got my new toy here. A machete. I’m going to come and show you what I’m about. Watch out. Be careful. I’m coming for you now”.
Mr Thomas said the messages made it clear that the defendant was looking for her.
He accused her of trying to set him up. She said he was going go to the police station.
He called her a “snitch” then said: “Good bye”.
Davidson murdered Nicholas Churton and then sent a message to a schoolgirl to say he had sealed his fate.
He said he had “crossed the line” and one way or another was going to die.
His head had finally snapped and that there were “bodies everywhere” – but he said he was so happy.
He described it as “the greatest day of my life.”
Details of the text messages were read to the court by prosecuting barrister Andrew Thomas QC.
Between 8.41pm that night and 10.14am the next morning the defendant sent a series of text messages to the girl which said: “I’ve sealed my fate.”
The court heard how Mr Churton had been busy on Thursday, March 23. He spoke with a neighbour during the morning. He went into town, to the Weatherspoons pub.
In the late morning and early afternoon he was visited by an old family friend he had known for 45 years.
Shortly before 3pm, Mr Churton spoke by telephone with a friend Colin Pemberton. They arranged to meet the next day.
By the evening, he was on his own in the flat. It is common ground that the killing took place on the evening of March 23.
From the messages, it was clear the killing was some time between about 8pm and 8.30pm, said Mr Andrew Thomas.
Mr Churton’s body was not found until four days later, on the Monday morning.
He was found by Mr Pemberton who was concerned that Mr Churton had not turned up to meet him on the Friday, and over the weekend he had not been answering his calls.
He went to the flat on the Monday and found the body.
The post-mortem examination was carried out by Dr Brian Rodgers.
The injuries which Mr Churton had suffered were consistent with repeated blows from the machete.
There were seven separate injuries to the face, skull and neck.
Mr Thomas said there were also two major injuries to the right hand, cutting through the bones and almost severing the hand completely.
Those injuries are consistent with Mr Churton trying to protect himself with his right hand.
There were three fractured ribs. There was also a circular defect to the back of Mr Churton’s skull, consistent with a blow from a hammer.
When Mr Churton’s body was found, he was lying on his side on the sofa in the living room.
However, it was clear from blood spatter evidence that the attack had taken place in the hallway.
There was a considerable quantity of blood spatter found on the walls at a low level between the floor and a height of about a metre.
“The pattern of blood spatter shows that most or all of the attack happened when Mr Churton was lying on the floor in the hallway.
“What it shows is that after the attack had taken place in the hall, the defendant had dragged Mr Churton’s body into the living room and lifted him onto the sofa.”
There was evidence also that the defendant had tried to start a fire. The smoke alarm had been taken off the ceiling.
The defendant’s violence continued the day after the murder , still using the same machete.
At about 6.30pm on Friday, March 24, the defendant robbed a pensioner named Michael Rogers on Whitegate Road, at the southern end of Caia Park.
He stole £3 or £4 and a Samsung mobile phone.
Again, it was a case of targeting a older male, said Mr Thomas.
The defendant went up to Mr Rogers near to the play area in the park.
He grabbed him and pushed him to the ground. He then produced the machete.
Mr Rogers said it looked like a large chef’s knife with a black blade. Another witness says it looked like a martial arts weapon.
Davidson told Mr Rogers: “I’m going to cut your head off. You’re going to die.”
He only stopped when a passer-by - a teenage girl - recognised the defendant and told him to stop.
As in the hairdressers, where a younger person stood up to him the defendant backed down.
Mr Rogers suffered minor injuries.
On March 24 Davidson committed an aggravated burglary at Benjamin Road in Wrexham, armed with the machete and with a knife.
The occupier Przemysla Saczonek returned home to find the defendant in the house.
“Mr Saczonek confronted him and the defendant ran out of the house. Mr Saczonek ran after him, but as he approached the defendant threatened to kill him. He appeared to be reaching for something in his pocket.
The defendant had left his mobile phone inside the house. The text messages to the girl were recovered from the phone.
Mr Thomas said the defendant dropped the machete in the back garden when he ran off together with the folding knife.
“From DNA analysis of blood on the blade, we know that was the murder weapon,” Mr Thomas told the court.
On March 28 the defendant went on to rob Stephen Brown and inflicted GBH with intent upon him.
Over that weekend, the defendant left the Wrexham area.
Mr Thomas said he appeared to have spent a quiet weekend with friends in Old Colwyn and at one point, he went fishing.
When they returned to Wrexham, they heard that Nicholas Churton’s body had been found. The defendant was widely reported as a suspect. When his friends challenged the defendant about it, he laughed and they told him to leave.
On the Tuesday evening, he and two friends were in Chester.
“It appears that Mr Davidson was looking for someone to rob,” the prosecutor said.
The victim of the robbery was a 52-year-old Stephen Brown.
He had been working at the Tesco Metro store in the city centre as a security guard.
Mr Thomas said he finished work and he walked back over the Old Dee Bridge into Handbridge to his car.
As he walked along, Mr Brown saw Davidson getting out of the rear seat of an estate car and approach him.
His face was partially covered.
Davidson produced a claw hammer and demanded Mr Brown hand over his money.
Mr Brown said he did not have any money and started to walk away.
Stephen Brown then saw the defendant lunge at him with the hammer.
The defendant struck him to the head and he fell to the ground.
He felt Davidson going through his pockets and removing his wallet and telephone. The defendant ran off.
Mr Brown managed to walk to a nearby takeaway. He was bleeding heavily from a head wound. He had one laceration to the right side of his forehead and another to the left. He was treated with stitches and discharged the next day.
However, an infection developed and he returned to hospital two days later. It was at that stage that the hospital was discovered that Mr Brown had in fact suffered a depressed fractured skull. There was also a small bleed around the dura and he was transferred to the Walton Centre in Liverpool for specialist treatment.
About half-an-hour after the attack, the BMW estate visited the Shell garage at New Brighton near Mold and at a second garage in Mold town centre where the victim’s card was used. It was also used to buy food at McDonalds in Mold.
By midnight on March 29, the BMW car was circulated as wanted. It was seen travelling through Sychdyn and at 12.18am it was located by police at a garage in Flint.
Police could see the defendant attempting to hide beneath a blanket and quilt in the back of the vehicle.
When challenged, the defendant got out of the vehicle and attempted to attack PC David Hall with the claw hammer.
There was a struggle in which the defendant managed to remove PC Hall’s belt containing his taser and Casco baton.
A “prolonged and violent struggle took place” on and around the back seat of the vehicle.
Although the defendant was overpowered, he attempted to cause injury.
At one stage the defendant used the claw hammer to lash out at PC Hall, striking him to the hand. Eventually PC Hall retrieved the taser and was able to use it to bring the defendant under control.
PC Hall suffered multiple bruises.
Following the defendant’s arrest, he was taken to the divisional police headquarters at St Asaph. The defendant answered no comment to all significant questions during interview.
Without warning the defendant attacked DC Donald Kenyon. He lunged at him and started punching the officer to the head.
There was a prolonged struggle before the defendant was brought under control and handcuffed.
DC Kenyon suffered bruising to his head and face as well as a shoulder injury.
The case is proceeding.