Drug dealer cleared of murdering Stevenage’s Mark Altabas who was stabbed after trying to steal his stash
- Credit: Archant
A 19-year-old drug dealer has been cleared of murdering a crack addict who burst into his house with two other men armed with knives and a pole to steal his drugs.
Destao Pedro of Forest Road, Walthamstow, was acquitted of murdering 48-year-old Mark Altabas from Stevenage at London’s Old Bailey yesterday.
But he will still face four years in jail after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply drugs in a separate hearing in September.
Summing up the murder trial, Judge Martyn Zeidman QC said Mr Pedro had been living with 43-year-old Katie Holmes and Robert Crook, 53, at the address in Long Leaves, Stevenage, in an arrangement where he supplied them with drugs instead of paying rent.
Pedro had visited London earlier that day and bought drugs, before returning to Stevenage to sell them.
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Late in the evening, he was sitting in the living room waiting for clients to come and buy the drugs, with a knife beside him on the sofa, which the court heard he found ‘comforting, like a teddy bear’.
Mr Altabas stormed into the house with fellow crack addicts Stuart Cuthbert and Chris Mooney armed with knives and a pole. The trio had met earlier in the day and had smoked crack together as they planned the robbery.
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Mr Altabas had burst through a curtain into the front room and got into a scuffle with Pedro.
The defence case argued Mr Altabas leapt on Pedro and attacked him with a knife. Pedro struggled to throw him off, ‘windmilling’ his arms in self defence, they said.
During the struggle, Pedro took a deep cut to his arm and noticed he was bleeding.
The court heard how he then came into contact with a knife on the floor and picked it up, continuing moving his arms in the same ‘windmilling’ motion in self defence, trying to get Mr Altabas off him.
Judge Zeidman said Pedro didn’t dispute he may have caused injury to Mr Altabas, but didn’t accept he did it deliberately or unlawfully.
After the robbers left, Pedro allegedly asked Ms Holmes to clean the knife he had used and put on a second pair of jogging bottoms to cover up the blood stains on his trousers.
The jury found her not guilty of a charge of conspiring to pervert the course of justice in relation to her actions.
The prosecution said Mr Crook was said to have helped arrange the robbery because Pedro owed him money. He was alleged to have made a series of phone calls to Mr Altabas in which he told him details about the drugs Pedro had and when he was likely to be at home.
But the jury acquitted Mr Crook of a charge of conspiracy to rob.
Cuthbert and Mooney will face sentence after both pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery, with the case to be heard at Cambridge Crown Court in due course.
During the trial Judge Zeidman warned the jury to treat their evidence carefully because he said they may have been attempting to reduce their forthcoming sentence.