A MAN accused of involvement in the contract killing of his business partner and former gay lover has told a jury how he felt “absolutely devastated’’ when he found out about the shooting.
Tearful David Large said he came across the scene of Christopher Hartley’s murder last September when he returned to West Yorkshire after a drugs trip to London.
But the 36-year-old told Bradford Crown Court yesterday that he thought his closest friend had been arrested when he saw police vehicles parked in Litherop Lane near Clayton West.
Large said the road was a location where car dealer Mr Hartley regularly conducted his business which also included selling fake ecstasy pills.
The court heard that Large had arranged for his friend, Simon Mullen, to meet up with the 45-year-old for the first time that night so Mullen could hand over some drugs money that was owed and take another batch of the pills back to the North East.
But Large claimed that when he spoke to Hartley on the phone at about 9.45pm on the night Hartley was shot dead, his friend told him that Mullen was not a priority for him and that he was busy.
Last week Mullen – who was allegedly recruited as the gunman – said he had never met Mr Hartley and he travelled back to the north-east when he failed to turn up for the planned meeting near to junction 39 of the M1.
Large said it was unusual for Mr Hartley not to call him and when he got back to West Yorkshire he drove to the Litherop Lane area where he saw two police vehicles.
He told the jury that everything was a bit of a daze and he went into a blind panic fearing that his drugs associate had been arrested.
Large said he drove to Mr Hartley’s five-bedroom house at Tingley, to put a ‘clean up operation’ into action which included removing a stash of the BZP pills and collecting £60,000 in cash from a safe.
Large said the cash belonged to him after he lent Mr Hartley money to buy the villa they used in Spain.
Large, now of Rona Croft, Rothwell, and 39-year-old Mullen, of Farding Square, South Shields, both deny murder. The trial continues.