Sunderland student accused of stabbing boyfriend to death over finding “messages to other men”

A South Hylton man is on trial for charges of murder after his boyfriend was found stabbed to death in his flat in Newcastle last year

Moments before he is accused of stabbing Jason Brockbanks to death in his student flat on the outskirts of Newcastle city centre, Aaron Ray videoed himself scrolling through messages on his partner’s phone showing he had been engaging with other men online.

Prosecutors say Ray, 21, knifed third year Northumbria University student Jason, 24, as he lay under his duvet then left him to die. He was found dead by a member of staff at Mansion Tyne, on Stoddart Street, Newcastle, slumped in his shower cubicle, three days later. Ray denies murder and is standing trial at Newcastle Crown Court.

David Lamb KC, prosecuting, said the pair had gone out in Newcastle city centre on Friday September 23 last year. CCTV shows them involved in “playful banter” with a trolley before leaving Mansion Tyne and footage of them out in town shows there was no trouble between them while they were out.

Around 3.30am, they headed back to the student accommodation and are captured on camera walking along the street holding hands. They are then seen on ring doorbell footage on Howard Street. Mr Lamb said: “It’s here the dynamic, you may think, had begun to change.

“It appears an argument starts, with the defendant and deceased concerning, possibly, a cigarette. The defendant walks off, leaving Jason behind.”

By 3.43am CCTV shows they were outside Mansion Tyne. Mr Lamb said: “You will see Jason sits down on a low wall before they go in. This defendant forcibly kicks Jason.

“The prosecution say it’s apparent from that footage it’s this defendant who was the aggressor, this defendant who is acting violently towards Jason and Jason remains passive throughout. At one point you may have thought he was cowering away from what was happening.”

The pair then went into Jason’s flat and that is the last time Jason is seen on CCTV. Mr Lamb said: “The prosecution case is while they were inside Jason’s flat, this defendant videoed himself using his own mobile phone in the en suite bathroom, scrolling through Jason’s phone and recording messages Jason had exchanged with other men.

“We suggest it was that scrolling that you are about to see and the realisation Jason was sexually interested in other males that was the trigger for the stabbing and ultimately this murder. The prosecution say this murder was committed after the scrolling stopped at 4.14am.”

Mr Lamb added: “The prosecution say after finishing the scrolling of the text messages or electronic communications between Jason and other males, this defendant lost his temper, went into the bedroom where Jason was and committed the murder.”

Mr Lamb says prosecutors allege that after leaving Jason’s flat and before leaving the building, Ray moved the knife he had used to stab him with into the communal kitchen. He added: “This defendant, during interview, accepted he had done that. And at the time he moved it and put it back in the kitchen drawer, it had blood on it – we say obviously Jason Brockbanks’ blood.”

The court hears that on Tuesday September, three days later, a manager at the student accommodation received an email asking if she could check on Jason’s welfare and she went to check on him. Having received no response from knocking on his door, she used a master key to go in.

Mr Lamb said: “She saw the TV was turned on, the bed appeared unmade, there was staining to the bed covers and carpet. She saw a hand print in blood on a door frame to the en suite bathroom.

“On opening the en suite bathroom door, she saw Jason Brockbanks slumped in the shower cubicle with his legs protruding outside. He was very obviously dead.

“He was wearing only a pair of bloodstained underpants. He was, I’m afraid to say, in the early stages of decomposition.”

Jurors are told there was a “considerable amount of blood” in the shower tray and there was a large amount of blood in and around the bed. Mr Lamb said the evidence suggests Jason was stabbed while in bed with the duvet over him then crawled to the bathroom and dropping down into the shower cubicle.

Mr Lamb told jurors a pathologist found three “sharp force injuries”, including one to his right flank, which was almost horizontal. That wound led to bleeding into his abdomen and caused his death due to blood loss.

Mr Lamb said: “That fatal injury would not have led to Jason Brockbanks’ immediate incapacitation. It’s likely he would have been capable of purposeful movement around the flat for a significant period of time. Furthermore, it remains a possibility that Jason may indeed have survived if medical attention had been sought.

“Of course this defendant did not summon the emergency services. As you know he was not found dead until three days after the murder.”

The pathologist said the injury to his flank was caused by a stabbing motion. He also had a superficial incised wound to his back from a slashing motion. There was a third slash wound to the left side of his back which had just broken the skin.

Jurors were played body worn camera footage of Ray being arrested at his parents’ home in Sunderland in a dressing gown in the early hours of September 29. Ray told police he didn’t realise Jason had died on the night it happened. He claimed Jason would become aggressive and violent when drunk. He claimed Jason had hit him that night and he reacted by picking up a knife and slashing out to get him off him.

Ray said he and Jason met around three months earlier on dating app Grindr. Mr Lamb said: “He agreed he found out Jason had cheated on him after seeing Grindr notifications which popped up on Jason’s phone saying “we should f*** again”.

Ray said they both had Grindr on their phones. Mr Lamb said: “The defendant said he would not like it if it was the other way around and he said that happened when they were both lying on the bed just before the incident occurred. He confirmed he and Jason were in an exclusive relationship.”

Ray, of Mayfield Road, Sunderland, denies murder and the trial continues.