Court: Aspiring rapper stabbed by masked men

An aspiring rapper was stabbed to death in Essex while three children hid in the next room, a court has heard.

Terrified parents Matthew Purves and Zoe Lewis fought to protect the children, all aged under five, after two masked men wielding a kitchen knife and a fake gun forced their way into their flat in Colchester, jurors at Chelmsford Crown Court were told.

The court heard how their friend, Thomas Brittain, 26, was stabbed in the struggle and bled to death on the floor of the children's bedroom.

Prosecutor Tony Prosser told jurors that Mr Purves and Mr Brittain were dozing in the living room when they heard banging and shouting outside the front door at about 2am on March 9.

Miss Lewis and the children were asleep in their bedrooms but were woken by the commotion.

Mr Prosser said: "One of the men held a pistol to Mr Purves's head and told him to keep down.

"The man's face was covered by a hood and a scarf.

"Another man burst in carrying a large kitchen knife and wearing a balaclava."

Miss Lewis ran to see what was happening and was grabbed by one of the raiders, he said.

"One of the men pulled her hair, held a knife to her face and told her to shut up," Mr Prosser added.

"She managed to run back to the children's bedroom and shut the door behind her.

"Mr Purves joined them and later one of the men tried to force his way in. Miss Lewis said she saw a hand reaching around the door.

"Both parents tried to protect the children and hold the door closed while dialling 999 for help.

"It went quiet and Mr Brittain was heard to say 'I've been stabbed'."

Mr Brittain, a local hip hop producer and songwriter also known as Twister, died on the floor from a punctured lung. He had suffered several other knife wounds.

Andre Vella, 19, from Village Close, Kirby Cross, and Jack Hummerstone, 18, of no fixed address, both deny murder and wounding with intent.

Vella denies possession of an imitation firearm while Hummerstone admits this charge.

The court heard the men accept they carried out the raid but blame one another for the stabbing.

Mr Prosser said: "Andre Villa and Jack Hummerstone had clearly armed themselves with weapons.

"Whether this was a plan for a robbery, for drugs or a punishment beating, we don't know.

"What is certain is that they went to the flat with a hostile intention."

The trial is expected to last up to three weeks.