A CO-DEFENDANT in a murder trial claims he was attacked by a young man who wanted to be paid for selling drugs.

Francesco D’Agostino, 45, is jointly accused of stabbing Serxhio Marku to death in Stafford Road, Brighton.

He said Mr Marku, from Albania, had demanded payment for drugs and had threatened to “rape” a neighbour’s young child, a court heard.

The Italian blames his flatmate Giuseppe Petriccione, 46, for being responsible for causing the fatal injuries to the 21-year-old.

D’Agostino sent a message to a friend less than two hours before the incident stating in Italian: “Tonight I will commit a murder.”

But at Brighton Crown Court he said he sent the message as a joke because he was angry that Petriccione was performing an erotic dance in his pants in the flat.

D’Agostino said he believed Petriccione was a closet homosexual who had feelings for him, and was so angry by the sight of his flatmate lap dancing that he sent the “joking” text message.

The court heard details of his life, including the trauma of losing his ex-partner who took her own life in Italy.

D’Agostino told jurors he had started taking drugs when he lived in Hastings from 2010, and was twice sent to prison for shop thefts.

But he had turned his life around and moved into a flat in Stafford Road Brighton after finding work in Brighton.

He met Giuseppe Petriccione, of Arienzo, Naples, while both men worked at The Opposition Italian restaurant in The Lanes, the court heard.

D’Agostino said Petriccione had a “short fuse” and lost his job working in the bar there.

The Argus:

Giving evidence in his defence D’Agostino said Mr Marku was usually a “polite” and “kind” young man who greeted him with “cuddles”.

But the defendant claimed Mr Marku had sex with under-age girls and had shown him pictures of teenagers on his phone at Pride in August 2019.

He said: “I thought about my ex-partner in Italy and she died. She had been exploited through drugs and I didn’t like it. I felt very uncomfortable.”

D’Agostino had made 433 calls to Mr Marku, known as drug runner “Jack”, in the previous few months.

On the night of September 11, he claimed a friend from the restaurant wanted to buy drugs but disappeared, so Mr Marku came in, looking for payment.

D’Agostino said: “He [Marku] came back inside the house, this time uninvited.

“He was different, he was not himself, he was aggressive and menacing. He went into the kitchen and got a knife.

“‘I’m going to hurt your neighbour if I don’t get my money’ he said. He waved the knife and said he would rape the kid of the neighbour.”

D’Agostino claimed he grabbed a barbell and scaffold pole during the course of a struggle with Mr Marku, but said it was Petriccione who struck the fatal blows with weapons and a knife.

In a police interview Petriccione said he was a calm person who hated violence, instead blaming D’Agostino for murder.

Both men deny murder, the trial continues.