Langwith Junction murder accused says he 'stepped' on Freda Walker, 86, after 'slipping on floor'

Freda Walker (right) was found dead in the kitchen by emergency services the following day after neighbours raised concerns Credit: PA Media

An intruder charged with murdering an 86-year-old woman has told jurors he accidentally stepped on her chest or ribs after slipping on a drink which spilled on to the floor.

Vasile Culea said he had intended to untie Freda Walker and her husband Kenneth, who had their wrists and ankles bound, but left their home after becoming “scared” when a car pulled up outside.

Romanian national Culea is accused of intending death or at least serious harm when he attacked, gagged and "hog-tied" Mr and Mrs Walker while searching for £30,000 in cash.

The prosecution maintained it was a sustained attack without mercy and Culea, who originally went there to burgle the house, meant to do serious harm.

Derby Crown Court heard on Wednesday how Culea was £11,000 in debt and how he had overheard two people in a Polish shop "talking about a wealthy house" that could be burgled in Langwith Junction.

Flowers outside the Walkers’ home, after the attack Credit: Josh Payne/PA

"I started to hit them, they hit back" - court hears

The 34-year-old denies charges of murder, attempted murder and wounding with intent but admits causing some harm to the pensioners, who suffered "frankly horrific" injuries at their home in Langwith Junction, Derbyshire.

Jurors have heard claims that retired seamstress Mrs Walker had a reasonable prospect of survival had she received help after being tied up along with town councillor Mr Walker, aged 88, at their home in Station Road on January 14 this year.

Giving evidence at Derby Crown Court on Wednesday, Culea admitted he had tied up the couple, but denying he gagged and hooded them, Culea said he was hiding in the utility room when he was spotted.

He told the jury: "She was in the middle of the utility room and he was stood by the door. She saw me and she started to scream.

"I pushed her, she kind of slipped."

He said Mrs Walker stood up, adding: "Ken was in front of me. He raised his walking stick but I don’t remember if it made contact with me.

"Because the next thing that happened I had been pulled back by (Mrs Walker) and I pushed him. He hit the kitchen door.

"After this everything moved in (to) the kitchen. I started to hit them, they hit back… she fell over."

Dressed in a grey top, jogging bottoms and trainers, Culea was assisted by a Romanian interpreter standing beside the witness box.

Claiming to have unintentionally stepped on Mrs Walker, Culea told the court: "I slipped… it was some drink or something… it fell on the floor."

Defence KC Clive Stockwell asked Culea: "Is that what you slipped on?"

Culea, who came to the UK in 2015, responded: "Yes."

Asked what had occurred as a result of him slipping, Culea went on: "I stepped on her. With one foot."

Invited to clarify whereabouts he had stepped on Mrs Walker, the defendant pointed to his chest and rib area and said he had not meant to step on the pensioner.

After the incident involving Mrs Walker, Culea claimed he pushed her husband in the back, causing him to fall into a set of sliding doors between the kitchen and the dining room.

According to his account, he tied both victims up, intending to release them after being able to "search the house peacefully".

He then found £300 in a handbag but heard a car parking in front of the house and left through the back door, after noticing that Mr Walker was moving and Mrs Walker was breathing.

"I was terrified, I was scared," he told the court.

Culea denies "bagging Freda's head" during burglary

Court artist sketch of Vasile Culea in the dock at Derby Crown Court Credit: Elizabeth Cook/PA

During cross-examination by Michael Auty KC, Culea denied his account of not gagging the couple was "a nonsense" and insisted he did not know how some of the couple’s injuries were caused.

He also denied his fingerprints were found on a roll of bin liners because he had "bagged Freda’s head" with them to prevent her identifying him.

The court has heard Mr Walker died some months later although his death was not connected to the attack.

Mrs Walker, who died from a brain injury, was found dead in the kitchen by emergency services the following day after neighbours raised concerns.

On the first day of his trial last week, Culea admitted the manslaughter of Mrs Walker and inflicting grievous bodily harm on Mr Walker.

The Crown alleges Culea, of Grove Road, Church Warsop, Nottinghamshire, intended to kill the couple in an attack that "was far beyond any justification, savage in its nature and sustained".

The trial continues.