A SOUTH Shields man accused of gunning down a West Yorkshire car dealer in a contract killing has denied carrying out the shooting.

Former offshore worker Simon Mullen – who is alleged to have been involved in the murder of Tingley man Christopher Hartley last September – told a jury at Bradford Crown Court yesterday that he was not the gunman who shot the 45-year-old in the head and chest on a quiet country road, Litherop Lane in Clayton West.

At the start of his evidence 39-year-old Mullen was immediately asked by his barrister whether he had shot Mr Hartley.

“No I did not,’’ replied Mullen.

The prosecution has alleged that Mullen was recruited by his close friend David Large, 35, to carry out the killing of his former gay lover and business partner.

It is alleged Large wanted to continue his relationship with his girlfriend, Dawn Mallinson, and a plot was hatched to lure Mr Hartley to a lay-by on the pretext of a drugs deal.

Although Mr Hartley and Large were involved in car dealing, after the killing it was discovered that a drugs factory for producing fake ecstasy pills was operating from a bungalow owned by the dead man in the grounds of his five-bedroomed detached home on Batley Road.

Mullen told the jury that he had started out helping Large with cars, but admitted that he later became involved in transporting thousands of fake pills from Leeds to South Shields.

Mullen, who said he had never met Mr Hartley, said he was paid £500 for each trip which usually involved a consignment of 10,000 tablets.

He said he was paid cash by the buyer in South Shields and he would pass the money on to Large when he came down to Leeds for the next trip.

Mullen also told the court that he had been paid £20,000 in instalments by Large after he signed documents for a re-mortgage involving a property his friend owned near his home in Broadcroft Drive, Tingley.

Earlier this week the jury heard details of a £25,000 spending spree which Mullen went on in the weeks following Mr Hartley’s death.

Mullen, who was said to have been receiving benefits of about £128 per fortnight, bought a laptop computer for almost £800 and paid nearly £1,200 in cash for a training course.

On the same day he bought a music system worth £2,490 for his Mitsubishi Evo car and the following day he handed over £3,850 in cash for a 63ins Samsung television package.

The day after, Mullen bought a 50ins Samsung television package costing almost £1,500 and later bought a Ford Transit van for £3,500.

The court heard that he also spent over £2,000 on a leather suite and £7,000 on repairs to his Evo vehicle.

The agreed spending by Mullen totalled £25,147.56.

Mullen told the jury that the special edition Evo car, which he bought for about £28,000 in 2001, was his ‘baby’ and in that respect he was like a 39-year-old child.

The prosecution has alleged that Large and Mullen used code words via Facebook to discuss the murder of Mr Hartley, but Mullen told the jury that the words ‘a door’ and ‘a hinge’ which were said to have referred to a gun and bullets were really references to drugs.

Large and Mullen have both denied the murder charge.

The trial continues.