UPDATE: Fernhurst murder defendant was the getaway driver

The scene at Old Glebe in January 2013 PICTURE BY EDDIE MITCHELL
The scene at Old Glebe in January 2013 PICTURE BY EDDIE MITCHELL

THE latest defendant to give evidence in the Fernhurst murder trial claims he acted as the getaway driver in the burglary of Michael Griffiths’ home.

Giving evidence yesterday (March 13) was 27-year-old Damian Krafft, who admits conspiracy to burgle Old Glebe, but denies murder and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Mr Griffiths's kitchen at Old Glebe after the fire

Mr Griffiths's kitchen at Old Glebe after the fire

He says his role was to act as the driver for fellow defendants Zack Cowdrey and Harvey Munford, who entered Michael Griffiths’ house on January 23, 2013.

But the prosecution alleges Krafft and others ‘were all part of a plan’ to harm Mr Griffiths and get him to hand over his property.

Mr Griffiths was found dead at his home at 35 Old Glebe on the morning of January 24 last year.

He had been seriously assaulted before his death and his body was found by firefighters ‘hog-tied’ behind his front door.

Seven people stand trial in connection with his death.

Brendan Kelly, defending, said Krafft had a troubled upbringing with both parents spending long periods in prison, including his mother, a heroin addict.

He was often in trouble with the police throughout his teens, arrested for shoplifting at the age of 12, and cautioned for damaging police property and common assault at 14.

A bricklayer by trade, Krafft was arrested in June last year.

He told the court he had been a regular user of cocaine and was arrested for possession of the class-A drug in 2008.

He claimed Krafft’s father in law, Simon Penton, asked him to act as the driver for the burglary.

“I was told I would get a drink out of it,” Krafft told jurors at Hove Trial Centre.

“I wasn’t expecting more than £1,000. I was told afterwards that the man (Michael Griffiths), had come home and had a heart attack. I felt sick.”

Jurors heard Krafft’s lighter was found out the back of Mr Griffiths’ property and was used to light the fire which destroyed much of his home and the evidence.

Krafft said Zack Cowdrey gave his lighter to Harvey Munford, who lit the fire.

Prosecuting, Christine Laing said: “You knew nothing about your lighter being used to light the fire but you were smoking in Mr Penton’s garden when you returned from Fernhurst. How had you lit your cigarette if Mr Cowdrey had taken your lighter?”

Krafft replied: “I can’t remember how I lit my cigarette that night.”

Miss Laing said: “Is that because you haven’t had time to think about that part of your story?”

Asked how he disposed of his Vauxhall Astra which was used for the burglary, Krafft responded: “I am not willing to answer that question.

“Somebody who is not connected with this case helped me get rid of it.”

Munford, Cowdrey, Krafft and Penton all visited Michael Griffiths’ home several times in the run-up to the burglary.

Miss Laing said: “It must have come as a huge shock to you when you realised you were carrying two killers in your car.

“I’m sure it’s about as shocking a few months later when you get arrested for murder.

“You thought Michael Griffiths has just come in and keeled over and died? Surely the most natural question in the world was, ‘how had he died?’.”

When asked who had filled up the vehicle with petrol on their trips to Fernhurst, Krafft said he could not remember, to which Miss Laing said: “You were with Cowdrey and Munford.

“They are easy to tell apart. Mr Cowdrey is fairly tall and Mr Munford isn’t.

“This isn’t a joke Mr Krafft. A man died from your actions.”

Asked about his phone records from January, 2013, Krafft told the court he could not remember exact call details.

Miss Laing said: “Do you have memory problems Mr Krafft or have you not got a script for this part of your story? I’m suggesting you are lying, trying not to contradict Simon Penton.

“He is trying to protect you as his son-in-law, and you are trying to return the favour.”

The prosecution said Krafft played a role in the death of Michael Griffiths and entered his home on the evening of January 23, which he denied.

The trial continues.