Man on trial for Brentwood double murder was in 'flight mode', court hears

Frankie Watson on trial for murder of Romford boys

Frankie Watson stands accused of murder, after Charlie Preston and Frankie Gater were killed in Regency Court in the early hours of October 24, 2021 - Credit: Essex Police

A man accused of murdering two Romford teenagers in Brentwood last year has denied any intentions of violence, claiming he was the person at risk.

Frankie Watson, 20, of Baker Street, Orsett, is accused of murdering 16-year-old Romford boys Charlie Preston and Frankie Gater in Regency Court in the early hours of October 24, 2021.

Watson is also accused of seriously hurting a third boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

The 20-year-old denies two counts of murder, two counts of manslaughter, one of wounding with intent and one of having a bladed article.

Trial proceedings officially got under way at Basildon Crown Court on June 28. 

The prosecution's case - as laid out by Lisa Wilding QC - is that "an explosion of violence" resulted in Watson stabbing three of his pursuing group "a total of 12 times".

It's accepted that the defendant had a folding knife with him, while Preston had a machete and Gater had a knuckleduster.

Watson's examination-in-chief, led by defence barrister Jeremy Dein QC, was heard on July 6 and 7.

During questioning the 20-year-old told jurors that he had "no intention to cause any trouble", claiming: "It's not in me."

Addressing the initial interaction he had with Preston and Gater, who were part of a group he and his friends first encountered on the High Street earlier that night, Watson admitted "something didn’t feel right".

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“I had this weird feeling in the pit of my belly," he said.

Explaining the exchange, Watson told jurors: "There was an individual there. He was staring at me, fixating on me."

Despite feeling "uncomfortable", the defendant said he initially tried to dismiss the behaviour before engaging when it did not stop.

"I looked back and he was still staring. So I stared back," he explained.

Watson further claimed that the same individual, who he did not specifically name, twice "quite aggressively" asked him who he was looking at.

As outlined by prosecutor Ms Wilding QC, that confrontation led to the defendant and his friends being chased by a group that included the two deceased.

The two groups left the High Street and went toward an open car park, where the prosecution allege that an armed Watson "awaited his pursuers".

When asked by Mr Dein QC, Watson denied having a knife in his hand when he entered the car park - claiming that it was still in his pocket at that point.

The defence barrister also asked the 20-year-old whether, as per the prosecution assertion, he intended to "inflict unlawful violence".

Watson replied: "That couldn’t be further from the truth."

CCTV footage played to jurors showed the accused pacing around the car park in the lead up to the critical altercation.

Asked to explain this, Watson said it was because he was lost - "I don't know where I am" - and because he didn't know "which way they’re [the chasing group] going to come from”.

Mr Dein QC continued: "The prosecution suggests you’re standing there, getting yourself ready to confront that armed group – is that what you were doing?” 

"Absolutely not," replied Watson, adding: "Why would I take on an armed group when my mindset is in flight mode?"

Footage then shows Watson initially walking toward his friends, before starting to run because they had done so.

The 20-year-old said that at this point, when he was "running through the car park toward the exit", he feared the closest chaser may have been trying to retrieve a weapon from his waist.

Watson said he then turned to face this individual, since confirmed to be Gater, because his proximity meant there was “no chance” of getting away.

Telling jurors that the knife was still in his pocket at this stage, the defendant claimed he only reached for the weapon when he thought he had been stabbed in the head.

"I thought I was going to die," Watson said, adding: "I didn’t know where I was swinging, I was swinging for my life."

The trial continues.