Earls Barton murder accused read Chron stories about the killing from his Alicante break

Stephen Welch scoured the Chron website for articles on the murder of Marion Price

Friday, 6th November 2020, 7:58 am
One of the stories searched for by Welch, plus Packwood Crescent Earls Barton where Marion was killed.
One of the stories searched for by Welch, plus Packwood Crescent Earls Barton where Marion was killed.

A man accused of murder read articles published by the Chronicle and Echo about the shooting in the days after the killing last December, a court has heard.

Marion Price, 63, was shot in the head outside her home in Packwood Crescent, Earls Barton, on December 15 last year.

One of the two men standing trial for that murder, Stephen Welch, took a flight to Alicante the morning after the killing on December 16, returning four days later when police dramatically embarked his Jet2 return flight at Birmingham Airport and arrested him.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Reader searched for maps of Earls Barton. Picture by Alison Bagley Photography.

A jury sitting at Northampton Crown Court heard yesterday (Thursday, November 5) that Welch had turned to the Chron's website for news of the incident less than 24 hours after the murder.

He read stories with the headline 'Earls Barton killing suspect was known to victim', 'Earls Barton murder: Northampton man, 69, arrested after woman found dead in her car', and 'Murder investigation launched after Earls Barton incident'. The following day, on December 17, Welch had read another story which began 'Earls Barton murder: A quiet street in the village of Earls Barton remains cordoned-off today after a woman was found dead in her car.'

The jury was told, as part of the facts agreed by both the defence and the prosecution, that Welch had also performed several searches for various Yamaha scooters in October of last year. When officers searched Welch's flat in Addlecroft Close, Kingsthorpe, they discovered the keys to his red Vauxhall corsa. Inside the Corsa, on the passenger seat, was a bunch of Yamaha keys and a fob.

Inside the glove box was a small black tracker with his co-defendant Michael Reader's DNA inside it. Reader's DNA was also discovered on a sim card inside the device.

The court was told that under interview on December 20, Welch had answered 'no comment' to all questions but had submitted a prepared statement that said: "I vehemently deny being involved in any way with the murder of Marion Price.

"Mike Reader is a long-standing friend of mine. I've known him for thirty to forty years and consider him as a great friend.

"I never got to know Marion Price. We never spoke much to each other. I certainly had no problem with her. I thought they had a good relationship."

In his statement to police he confirmed ownership of a red Vauxhall Corsa that he had had for two years. He said on the day of the murder he had gone to his daughter Natalie's house at about 3pm. He had then gone to Mike Reader's house at 4pm on a 'social visit' before going to see his grandson Lee to give him some money for his birthday at about 5pm.

He went on: "I've not idea how the mobile tracking device was found in my Vauxhall Corsa."

Welch said he had found the Yamaha motorcycle keys on the ground when he went out shopping to Sports Direct at Riverside on December 14 and had meant to hand them in to police but he had forgotten about it. He also said he had 'no idea' how a Samsung mobile phone with a sim ending in '53' had got on to his bedside table.

The statement also said he had had a firearms certificate in the 1990s and had bought a rifle to use for pest control but that he had sold it to a shop in St James's Road. He said he had kept the gun cabinet to use as a safe.

He also told police he had never ridden a motorbike and had never owned one.

Since being charged, the court heard Welch had accepted that his account of the day of the murder is not accurate.

On the final day of the month-long prosecution case the court was also told that Mike Reader, who had been married to Marion Price, had performed many google searches on his phone in October of 2018. Among those searches was 'tracker for car', 'covert tracker', 'tracking device', 'Earls Barton maps' and on Streetview for 'Earls Barton' which is where Marion had moved to. He had also searched Auto Trader and Bike Market.

In August 2019, after Marion had filed for divorce, he searched 'breakdown of marriage after four years do we still share 50/50'. Then in the October, two months before Marion died, he searched for 'how to clean all data off CCTV', 'how to clean iPhone5' and 'how to scrub data'.

The court also heard he made several 'ok google' voice searches including in March 2018 when he had searched for Marion Reader, then in October he had searched for 125cc scooters and for 250cc motorbikes.

In September 2019 he had searched for a map and for streetviews of Earls Barton.

The final prosecution witness DCI Joe Banfield told the court that police had never recovered the weapon they believe killed Marion, or the motorbike they believe the gunman had been riding. Nor had they found any ammunition and they did not know what type of shotgun had fired the fatal shot.

The trial continues.