Car park killing: John Avers the 'best friend' of hitman, court hears

John Avers was killed in the Iceland carpark off Whalebone Lane South in Dagenham

John Avers was killed in the Iceland carpark off Whalebone Lane South in Dagenham - Credit: Google

The father and son accused of murdering businessman John Avers in a Dagenham carpark have both expressed fears about an alleged East End gangster - known only as "XX" - to jurors at the Old Bailey.

Gary and Bobby Ternent - aged 59 and 32 respectively - are both currently on trial for the murder of Mr Avers, who died on September 13 2020 after being run over repeatedly in the Iceland car park in Whalebone Lane South.

So far, jurors at the Old Bailey have seen "distressing" CCTV footage of the 47-year-old victim being run over by a BMW X6 - reportedly driven by the younger Ternent.

The court has also heard claims that the older Ternent held Mr Avers on the ground in front of the car.

Both men, of Movers Lane, Dagenham, deny murder.

It has since emerged during the course of the trial that both father and son have spoken separately about fearing the same individual - an alleged "hitman" known only as XX - who was reportedly friends with Mr Avers.

Prosecutor Nicholas Hearn said that although the individual's name was provided to police officers, he would be referred to as 'XX' in the proceedings.

Jurors were told yesterday - January 19 - that Gary Ternent spoke of this man while in custody at Southend Police Station on September 19 2020 after he had been arrested on suspicion of Mr Avers' murder. 

On Friday - January 14 - they heard that Bobby Ternent had also spoken about the same man when he made his police statement, describing how his fear of the alleged "hitman" XX led him to "panic" and run over Mr Avers.

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However, the court also heard claims that the alleged hitman XX was friends with Gary Ternent.

Mr Winston, the custody suite officer who dealt with the elder Ternent, claimed he told him he was "friends with a particular person" that he had "known for 25 years".

Mr Emlyn Jones said: "He named a person. That is the same name that was referred to as 'XX' in Bobby Ternent's interview. Did he say he was friends with that person?"

Mr Winston agreed he had.

"He asked you if you knew who it was. Was it a name that you knew?"

Saying he didn't, Mr Winston added: "He described him as an East End gangster."

"And I think he told you you could look him up on Google and you'd be able to find him," continued Mr Emlyn Jones QC.

"Did he say to you at the end of this conversation that he was worried; firstly for his own safety and for his son's safety and for his wife's safety?"

Mr Winston said: "Yes."

Defence barrister for Bobby Ternent, Paul Hislop, went on to ask: "Did you get the impression that his [Gary's] worry and concern for the safety of himself, his son and his wife related to what he had told you earlier about Mr X?"

He replied: "Yes." 

On the same day that his father was being held in custody, Bobby Ternent gave an interview at the Fresh Wharf Custody Suite in Barking which was read to jurors on Friday.

In that interview Bobby Ternent claimed Mr Avers had asked him to look after £40,000 of stolen drug money, and then phoned him on September 13 to say he "needed the money".

On that day, it's claimed the 32-year-old picked up Mr Avers in the BMW X6 before the pair drove to the Iceland carpark off Whalebone Lane South.

Once there, he alleges Mr Avers started "screaming at him, saying the money was short".

"We got into a row. He said I want my money now or I'm going to kill your wife and your kids now," said the father-of-six.

"The reason I took that threat seriously is his best friend is XX."

In his statement, Bobby Ternent went on to say: "So I got in the car, and John was already on the floor and I just tried to drive over his legs to stop him from getting up, because I didn't want him to get at my family.

"I panicked and I thought I missed him, so obviously I went round the car park and I reversed back onto his leg and I drove out of the carpark and I threw the money away as well."

Though once long-time friends, the younger Ternent described Mr Avers as "a very powerful man, very well connected with the drug gangs and stuff like that".

Last week, Lesley Avers told the court that her estranged husband texted her the day before he was killed, promising to get their Upminster home back after money problems had forced its sale.

The trial continues.