Tom Bell murder trial: 'I wasn't involved but I heard Scott Goucoul threaten to blast victim,' defendant tells jury

A man accused of killing a Doncaster boxer in a pub shooting has denied all involvement, and claims his co-accused threatened to ‘blast’ the victim just hours before the murder took place.

Wednesday, 7th August 2019, 12:31 pm
Floral tributes outside the Maple Tree, Balby where Tom Bell was fatally shot on January 17 this year. Picture: Marie Caley

Tom Bell, 21, was shot dead by a masked assailant through the window of the Maple Tree pub just after 8.40pm on January 17 this year.

Scott Goucoul, 28, and Joseph Bennia, 30, both of no fixed abode, are currently on trial at Sheffield Crown Court, accused of Mr Bell’s murder.

The prosecution allege that one of the defendant acted as the gunman, while the other waited nearby in a stolen getaway car - but say they cannot be sure who had which role.

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Tom Bell.

During Bennia’s evidence today, he described Mr Bell as a ‘friend’ he had been to raves with, and said he had also attended a party at Mr Bell’s house the month before his murder.

Christopher Tehrani QC, representing Bennia, asked him: “Were you at the Maple Tree pub at 8.45pm on January 17?”

“No,” replied Bennia.

Mr Tehrani continued: “Were you the gunman?”

'Promising boxer' Tom Bell was fatally shot at the Maple Tree pub in Balby on January 17 this year

Bennia answered ‘no’ again.

“Did you assist the gunman in any way,” asked Mr Tehrani.

“No,” said Bennia.

The jury was told how Bennia and Goucoul had worked together selling Class A drugs since Goucoul was released from prison in October 2018.

A floral tribute used at Tom Bell's funeral at St Peters in Chains Church, Doncaster on February 18 this year

On the day of the murder, Bennia and Goucoul arrived at the Maple Tree at around 6pm and ordered some food.

Bennia said he bumped into Mr Bell on the way back into the pub, having gone outside to the car park to complete a drug deal.

“I spoke to him, and said: ‘Now then, what are you doing here?’ other words, [I asked him that because] you don’t normally see him in the Maple Tree, in Balby. Normally, he’s in Wheatley. He said he’d come for some food, and to meet Brad [Mills],” said Bennia.

Mr Tehrani said: “Was a cross word spoken between you?”

“No,” replied Bennia.

Bennia said he subsequently returned to the table he had been sitting at with Goucoul, who appeared to react negatively after seeing Mr Bell at the pub.

“He [Goucoul] noticed Tom come in and he said: ‘Get ready for it to kick off in here’,” said Bennia.

Mr Tehrani asked: “Did he say what he meant?”

Bennia replied: “Obviously, because they don’t get along. He didn’t say that, but I knew what he meant.”

The court has previously been told that Goucoul’s former partner, Francesca Salt, was the victim of an attempted robbery at her home in 2016 while Goucoul was in prison.

Ms Salt said in her evidence that two men were involved in the attempted robbery, and she believed one of the men to be Mr Bell after identifying him through Facebook.

She said her father’s home was shot at following the incident, and had heard rumours suggesting members of the Bell family were responsible.

Bennia told the court that Goucoul was ‘fuming’ and the pair left the pub together in Goucoul’s Jeep a short time later.

Bennia said that as they were driving away, Goucoul told him: “I’m going to blast him,” and told the jury he believed Goucoul was referring to Mr Bell.

“I told him: ‘Don’t be so f****** stupid, in the middle of a pub, where there are people, are you for real?’

“It was awkward in the car, so I put some music on. Scott switched the music off, and said: ‘Are you going to drive the white motor for me’,” said Bennia.

Mr Tehrani said: “Did you ask him why he wanted you to drive it?”

“No, I just said: ‘Am I f*** driving that’ because I knew it was a stolen car,” said Bennia.

Bennia said Goucoul responded by telling him he would ‘get someone else to drive it’ and made a phone call to an individual called Stuart Walker through his car’s Bluetooth speakers.

“He [Goucoul] rings Stuart and says: ‘Do you want to earn some money? I just need you to drive this motor for me’.”

Bennia said he overheard Mr Walker tell Goucoul he could not drive because he had been drinking, but said he might be able to get his brother to do it instead.

Bennia told the court he had been expecting Goucoul to drive him straight back to his mother’s house after the Maple Tree, but said Goucoul drove to a lock-up they had been sharing instead, where he picked up a ‘black bag of clothes’.

Following this, Bennia said Goucoul dropped him off at home, and came inside for around five to 10 minutes, while he counted the money from the day’s drug takings.

Goucoul is alleged to have left after that, according to Bennia, who claims to have stayed at home ‘watching DVDs’ after Goucoul’s departure.

Mr Tehrani asked: “No incoming or outgoing calls [were made on your phone] until 8.50pm – 10 minutes after the shooting. Why is that?”

Bennia replied: “I put my phone on Airplane Mode because I knew something dodgy was going on, and I didn’t want Scott phoning me.”

Mr Tehrani said: “What did you think was going down...what did you suspect?”

“I thought maybe they were doing a job on a vehicle. It could have been anything,” said Bennia.

Mr Tehrani said: “Did you think any harm was going to come to Tom Bell?”

“His name never got mentioned so why would I think that,” said Bennia, referring to the conversations he overheard between Gououl and Mr Walker.

Bennia said Goucoul returned to the property at around 9pm, and asked him to burn some clothes for him.

“He came running towards me with a carrier bag. He said: ‘Get rid of them, burn them'...I said ‘why’ and he said: ‘it doesn’t matter why’. He was rushing, panicking, so I knew something had gone off. He looked as pale as a ghost,” said Bennia.

Mr Tehrani said: “Did you see anyone else in the car [Goucoul’s Jeep]?”

“Two people. Obviously it was dark so I didn’t see their faces,” said Bennia.

Bennia said Goucoul subsequently left, and said he ‘immediately’ did as Goucoul requested and burnt his clothes on some wasteland near to his mother’s house.

Mr Tehrani asked Bennia why he burnt Goucoul’s clothes, given his concerns about his actions on that night.

“Everything were going off so fast...I didn’t want anything in my mum’s house so that’s why I burnt them,” replied Bennia.

Bennia and Goucoul both deny murdering Mr Bell.

The trial continues.