Father fatally stabbed at pre-aranged fight near Hailsham

A young father was fatally stabbed as he refereed at a pre-arranged fight aimed to resolve a feud which had started on Facebook, a court was told.

Darren Croxton was knifed three times by 19-year-old Stewart Johnson and a 17-year- old who cannot be named for legal reasons, a jury at Lewes Crown Court heard yesterday.

Jurors were told 25-year-old Mr Croxton had arranged for two separate groups to meet in an isolated wooded area at 4.30pm on January 23, 2012, and for a fight to occur.

The court heard that at the location, off The Diplocks estate in Hailsham, Kai Smith started fighting Tom Venton, who had previously dated his girlfriend.

Jurors were told how the group were planning to settle matters “one on one” having been part of two separate groups who had been involved in a scuffle in Hellingly the previous night.

Philip Bennett, prosecuting, said while the two scuffled, Mr Croxton, from Hailsham, was stabbed once in the thigh with a nine-inch hunting or gutting knife by the 17-year-old, who was 16 at the time of the incident.

He said Mr Croxton ran away but the boy and Johnson, 18 at the time of the incident, chased him.

Mr Bennett said Mr Croxton was then stabbed two more times and the Crown Prosecution Service believe it was Johnson who was responsible because of blood stains on his clothes.

He said another boy, Louis Holt, was watching the fight. Mr Bennett, describing what Mr Holt saw, said: “[The defendant] was holding a knife. He [Mr Holt] said, ‘Put the knife down’. “[The defendant] said, ‘Louis, stay out of this’.

“Darren put his hand on his thigh. He looked shocked. He ran off with Carl [Jordan] and he was chased.”

Mr Bennett said another boy, Brendan Holt, watched the fight. He said Mr Holt heard Mr Croxton shout: “He is trying to stab me. I’ve just been stabbed.”

Mr Bennett said Mr Croxton climbed over a fence and collapsed onto the ground and this was witnessed by a neighbour, named as Mr Fox.

Mr Bennett said: “When they [the people chasing him] saw Mr Fox they went the other way. “Mr Croxton went towards Mr Fox and said, ‘Can you help me? I’ve been stabbed’.”

Mr Croxton was taken to the Royal Sussex County Hospital where he died at 7.15am the next day.

At 12.20pm on the same day, January 24, the 16-year-old was arrested by police near Heathfield.

He was subsequently charged with murder, a count he denies.

Johnson, of no fixed address, also denies murder. The trial continues.

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