A man accused of being involved in the murder of his love rival has started giving evidence at his trial.

Mohammed Shiraz Bashir, 42, of Holme Park Court, Berry Brow, is said to have taken part in the “brutal and senseless” murder of Craig Preston in a lane near Rotherham on August 21, 2016.

He and his 23-year-old girlfriend Leonie Mason , also of Holme Park Court, are said to have killed Preston, who was Mason’s ex but someone she continued to see occasionally while being in a relationship with Bashir.

Three teenage boys, who can’t be named for legal reasons, are also charged with murder. All five defendants deny the charges.

A jury at Sheffield Crown Court heard Bashir tell his counsel, Jo Sidhu, QC, that he was “madly in love” with Leonie and planned to marry her.

But the court heard the couple had a turbulent relationship with Bashir disapproving of her alleged drug-taking and drinking as it was against his religion.

He told the court he first met her when she worked as a barmaid at The Kingfisher pub in Rotherham in 2012.

But it wasn’t until January 2016 that their friendship was rekindled when she contacted him via Facebook.

The couple began living together, he said, but Preston’s shadow was never far away.

Bashir claimed Preston had been violent to her and “he felt sorry for her.”

Woodhead Tunnels entrance, Woodhead Pass
Woodhead Tunnels entrance, Woodhead Pass

Asked about his feelings for her he said: “She was kind, she was caring.”

Asked by Mr Sidhu if he fancied her and whether the “physical part of your relationship was good”, he replied: “Yes, it was.”

The jury was previously told Bashir and Mason plotted to kill Mr Preston, also known as Craig Nelson, because he was an “annoyance.”

The prosecution claims Mr Preston was attacked by the group in a lay-by in Rotherham and then dumped on moorland close to Woodhead Tunnels.

Man and woman from Huddersfield charged with murder after body found near Woodhead Pass

Mason has previously admitted playing a “significant role” in events leading up to Mr Preston’s death.

Defence barrister Jason Pitter QC asked her: “Do you accept you played a significant role in the events that lead to the death of Craig Preston?”

She answered: “Yes.”

Mr Pitter added: “Do you accept that you were wrong to play that part?” She replied: “Yes, definitely.”

Mason went on to deny intending for Mr Preston to be killed or for him to be seriously harmed.

The trial continues.