Page last updated at 13:34 GMT, Thursday, 17 July 2008 14:34 UK

Accused 'was told to stab victim'

Shooting victims Keith Cowell, 52, and his son Matthew, 17
Keith Cowell, his son Matthew and a third man were shot dead

A man accused of a triple murder has told a court he was forced to stab a woman as she cradled her daughter.

Claire Evans, 23, survived after she was stabbed eight times in an attack in which three men were shot dead in Bishop's Stortford on 28 August, 2007.

Miran Thakrar, 24, of no fixed address, said he was forced to stab Ms Evans by the gunman, who was unknown to him.

Mr Thakrar and his brother Kevan Thakrar, 21, of Stevenage, both deny murder at St Albans Crown Court.

Keith Cowell, 52, his son Matthew, 17, and Tony Dulieu, 33, from Essex, were all killed at the Cowells' Hertfordshire home in Bishop's Stortford.

Tony Dulieu
Tony Dulieu was a friend of Keith and Matthew Cowell

Ms Evans was stabbed six times in the back and twice in the head as she protected her four-year-old daughter Courtney.

Another woman, Christine Jennings, 54, was shot in the foot and stabbed but survived, jurors heard.

Miran and Kevan Thakrar are alleged to have carried out a revenge attack after a cocaine deal had gone wrong.

But Miran Thakrar claimed he saw the three victims killed and Christine Jennings, 54, shot and stabbed, by two black men.

He told jurors he went to the Cowell's home to sell cannabis, when the two black men burst in and shot dead the three victims as well as Ms Jennings, who survived the attack.

I know it sounds evil but I didn't have a choice
Miran Thakrar

Miran Thakrar claimed the men then threatened to kill him unless he carried out the knife attack on Ms Evans as she protected her daughter.

He said: "I saw Claire and her baby. I took one step forward and thought 'I can't do this. I can't do this'. He (the gunman) said 'Do it or I will shoot you'.'"

He went on: "I turned my back on the guy and said to her: 'Sorry', and then I rolled her over so it was her back, not her front. I was trying not to hurt her. I was trying to make it look like I had killed her, but I was not trying to kill her.

"She said: 'No Mikey, please don't... my baby'. Courtney was half way down the bed with her knees curled up.

No 'choice'

Ms Evans was stabbed six times in the back and twice in the head, jurors heard.

"I knew I hadn't killed her. I was just cutting her a little bit. I know it sounds evil but I didn't have a choice. I didn't want to kill her."

The next day, the jury was told, Miran Thakrar fled with his girlfriend to Cyprus.

Three other men and a woman are also on trial for offences linked to the attack.

The trial continues.

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