Jodie Chesney trial: Drug dealer accused of murder reveals he gave co-defendant change of clothes after fatal knife attack
- Credit: Archant
A 20-year-old drug dealer accused of murdering Jodie Chesney has claimed he spent the day of her death doing drug deals and had no idea there would be bloodshed that night.
Manuel Petrovic from Highfield Road, Collier Row, is jointly accused of murdering Jodie Chesney on March 1, along with Svenson Ong-a-Kwie, 19, from Collier Row and two youths aged 16 and 17 from Barking and Romford.
They all deny murder.
Defence lawyer Sarah Foreshaw QC asked Mr Petrovic if he knew any of Jodie's friends or whether he was aware they were travelling to Amy's Park, St Neot's Road on the day of her death.
He responded: "No, I did not know any of them."
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The 20-year-old told jurors that he was a talented footballer before he started getting into trouble at school.
He said: "I did well until I got myself into a bit of trouble hanging around with the wrong crowd.
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"I was meant to be scouted by West Ham, but about that time I was getting into trouble.
"Three times a week I used to have to attend [football training], and it started getting once a week and before I knew it I wasn't training."
The 20-year-old added that he regretted it "a million per cent".
Mr Petrovic started smoking cannabis at around the age of 13 and by the time he was 15, he was expelled from the Royal Liberty School in Upper Brentwood Road, Romford.
For a while Mr Petrovic had a part time job in landscape gardening.
After he found himself in debt to a dealer, Mr Petrovic began dealing drugs.
He told the court that he knew the 16-year-old defendant for six years and that he was "like a little brother" to him.
When Ms Forshaw asked how Mr Petrovic hoped to keep the 16-year-old out of trouble, he responded: "It's not that I need to look after him.
"I just felt like he was getting in with the wrong crowd so I thought I would take him under my wing.
"I do not get involved with what some other people might do, like robberies.
"I just sell a bit of weed to people."
Mr Petrovic said he had also known Mr Ong-a-Kwie for about four years but they were business associates rather than friends.
While Mr Petrovic dealt drugs mainly in Collier Row and Romford, Mr Ong-a-Kwie dealt in the Harold Hill area.
When Mr Ong-a-Kwie's friend was injured in a car accident, the 19-year-old began relying on Mr Petrovic for lifts.
Mr Petrovic said he had gone to Cafe 23 in Collier Row Road at about noon on March 1 with Mr Ong-a-Kwie and the 16-year-old defendant.
He told jurors that he was carrying a bag containing Class A drugs worth about £2,000 at that point.
He also told them that he gave a fresh set of clothes to one of his co-defendants after the murder, and he was telling the court now because Jodie's family deserve to know the truth.
Petrovic said the reason for the trip to the park was for one of his co-defendant's to pick up some "yay", or cocaine.
Petrovic told the jury: "I did not think there would be any violence on this journey."
Defence lawyer Sarah Forshaw QC asked Petrovic: "Did you have any idea that giving a lift would have resulted in any kind of violence?"
Petrovic said: "No, not at all."
When Ong-a-Kwie and the 17-year-old returned to the car, Petrovic said they were not acting suspiciously but were just quiet. He did not notice anything unusual or see any blood.
Ms Forshaw asked if they said "anything about a stabbing or beef in the park", but Petrovic replied they "did not say anything about what happened in the park".
Petrovic said he drove away from the scene and even took a call about a class A drug deal before dropping off his passengers.
It was only the next day, after reading an online press report he realised a murder had taken place.
He said he had "suspicions" that it might have been linked to the trip they had made the previous night, but thought that someone would have said something about it.
Petrovic also told the court that he brought a fresh set of clothes to Ong-a-Kwie, who had asked for it in a telephone call in the hour after he was dropped off after the murder.
When asked what he had been told in the call, Petrovic said: "He told me he had a madness and some shit had happened and he needed a change of clothes."
Petrovic said he passed on a set of his brother's clothes at about 10.20pm.
Ong-a-Kwie did not say why he wanted a change of outfit, and Petrovic said he "did not ask him or really care" at the time.
The trial continues.