An alleged plot to rob lorry drivers of their wagons and loads ended in tragedy when one of the team was fatally stabbed by a Greek trucker in fear of his life, a court heard.
The driver also injured two others after they had allegedly set on him with pick-axe handles as he spent the night on the Station Road Industrial Estate in Coleshill.
Warwick Crown Court heard Vasilios Nikolapoulos describe how he lashed out with a folding knife, fearing for his life, as the men tried to force him into the boot of their car.
The gang fled in a high-powered Subaru to Sandwell General Hospital where ‘commander-in-chief’ Dean Skidmore died from loss of blood from a severed artery, it was told.
Three others – Spencer Howell, Danny Lee White and a 17-year-old who a Judge has said cannot be identified – have all denied conspiring to rob lorry drivers of items from their trailers, although they have admitted an alternative offence of conspiring to steal from trailers.
Howell, (35), of Bassett Road, Wednesbury; Wright, (19), of Biddings Lane, Bilston; and the teenager from Brierley Hill, who was just 15 at the time, also denied assaulting Vasilios Nikolapoulos with intent to rob him.
Prosecutor Michael Duck said the three accept that between 9.25pm on February 25 last year and 6.30am the next day they had a plan to steal from the rear of lorry trailers.
“The defendants say they took the opportunity to break into lorries and help themselves to items from trailers, and they say ‘we had no intention of disturbing the driver.’
“The prosecution say they had a rather different agreement – to seek out goods that were of value from drivers who were vulnerable. The intention was to take the whole unit. That does not happen by a polite request.”
Mr Duck alleged that during the Coleshill incident the gang were trying to force the Greek driver into the boot of the Subaru to drive him away and dump him so they could take his lorry and trailer containing clothes and expensive electric tools.
Mr Nikolapoulos said: “To resist, I put my hands up towards the top of the boot and called out ‘stop, stop I’ll give you the key.’
“I put my hand in my pocket and took out a small knife I have with me for peeling fruit and to cut bread or to cut sausage. It is one which folds,” said Vasilios.
He showed the jury how he opened it and held it with the blade pointing out and said he kept his head down and struck out in all directions, and felt the blade of the knife catch someone.
“The knife struck a point to the upper thigh of the person. I managed to get free from his grip and I ran as fast as I could,” he added.
Mr Duck said the gang fled in the Subaru and called 999 as they sped along the M6 to Sandwell Hospital, claiming they had been attacked after being cut up on the motorway.
At the hospital the three injured people went in, but Skidmore later died as a result of loss of blood.
The case continues.