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Building firm boss allegedly choked to death by his employee in desperate bid to steal his money

Steve Coulson was found dead at his home with money taken from his safe. Credit: NCJMedia Syndication

A court has heard how a building firm boss was allegedly choked to death by one of his employees in a desperate attempt to get his money.

Prosecutors say Paul Johnson squeezed the life out of his boss and friend, Steve Coulson, before raiding his safe as he lay dead or dying on the floor.

It's claimed Johnson, who was said to be under the influence of morphine and crack cocaine at the time, stayed at Mr Johnson's flat for two-and-a-half hours after murdering him.

When loved ones tried to contact Mr Coulson, Johnson is said to have posed as the dead man and lied that they were on a job together.

Police forensics at the scene where Mr Coulson's body was found Credit: NCJMedia Syndication

Newcastle Crown Court heard how Johnson turned up at Mr Coulson's address in the early hours of the morning on Saturday 6 October.

The prosecution claims that Johnson did so with the intent to steal money from his boss.

Robert Smith QC, prosecuting, said: "In the early hours of Saturday October 6 last year the defendant in this case, Paul Johnson, went to the home of his friend and employer, a man called Steve Coulson.

"Mr Coulson put his dressing gown on and let the defendant in to the upstairs flat where he lived at Park Court, Stakeford. That would have been shortly after 4.30am.

"About four-and-a-half hours later the defendant left the flat, by which time Mr Coulson was dead.

"The prosecution say he had been choked to death by the defendant and left on the floor of his bedroom.

"The prosecution say the defendant's reason for visiting Mr Coulson at that time in the morning was to obtain money and his motive for killing Mr Coulson was in order to steal money."

It is alleged Johnson sent messages from Mr Coulson's phone pretending to be him in a bid to access his safe Credit: NCJMedia Syndication

Johnson eventually managed to gain access to the safe and stole money although it was unclear how much in total.

It is alleged Johnson then took Mr Coulson's mobile phone, two kitchen knives, Mr Coulson's keys and his medication. He then got into his van and drove to a location two to three miles away.

Johnson was spotted slumped in the van, the emergency services were called and he was taken to hospital before being arrested.

The court heard a note was found next to Mr Coulson's body addressed to his former partner, saying: "I came here at 4.30am and he went mad, got physical, he attacked me, I've been slashed, stabbed nine times. Sorry."

Johnson denies murder and has claimed he acted in self-defence after Mr Coulson attacked him.

Johnson, of Cleaswell Hill, in Guide Post in Northumberland, admitted stealing money from Mr Coulson's safe. He denies murder and assault with intent to rob but admits theft of money from the safe.

The trial continues.