A CASTLE pensioner was stabbed at least 13 times by his supposed friend before his debit cards were used to pay for shopping, a court has heard.

Gary Solomon, 56, of Castle Court in Northwich, denies murdering 72-year-old John 'Johnny' Hammerton, whose body was found by Cheshire Police officers at his home in Peckforton Way, on October 8 last year.

The trial of Solomon began at Chester Crown Court on Monday, with an opening statement from prosecuting barrister David McLachlan QC.

Mr McLachlan told the jury how despite Mr Hammerton – known by those who knew him as Johnny – leading a seemingly frugal lifestyle, had in excess of £100,000 in his bank account at the time of his death.

He went on to tell the court how Mr Hammerton had been married to a Thai woman named Lek for a number of years, and that he would regularly spend half of the year with her in Thailand and half at his modest two-bedroom ground floor flat in Northwich.

However, Mr McLachlan added that Mr Hammerton, a small man of only five foot in stature, was also 'a worrier' and 'a creature of habit' and had returned from a planned three month trip to Thailand six weeks early in September last year after speaking with his bank, Barclays, about a missing debit card of his being used.

After not being seen for several days, and not answering several telephone calls made to him by his concerned wife back in Thailand, the alarm was raised and at around 3.30pm on October 8, his body was found on the sofa in his living room.

Mr McLachlan said: "An initial examination of his body by police officers at the scene indicated bruising to his right eye and blood on his chest.

"However, when a Home Office pathologist attended the scene, he noticed a series of stab wounds to his left upper chest and to left side of his neck."

Mr McLachlan went on to explain how a post-mortem carried out on Mr Hammerton the next day, found he had been stabbed at least 13 times, with the cause of death being given as multiple stab wounds.

Mr McLachlan added: "The finger points fairly and squarely at the man sat there, Gary Solomon, the man in the dock.

"And the evidence you will hear during this trial will explain exactly why."

Solomon, who appeared wearing a white shirt and light blue tie, had used one of Mr Hammerton's debit cards to place bets in a Northwich betting office, as well as making additional contactless payments at a nearby Tesco Express store, where he also worked as an early morning cleaner.

The prosecutor explained how Mr Hammerton had flown out to Thailand on August 9, and having initially made a call to his regular taxi driver to cancel his lift to Manchester over concerns one of his debit cards had gone missing, had later changed his mind and flown as planned, after speaking to his friend Solomon, who had promised to help him with the issue.

However, the jury was told that Solomon was instead using the same card to place three £30 bets at the Megabet betting shop in Chester Road the very same day.

When Solomon was arrested by police officers on October 10, body cam footage recorded him saying, "I knew this would happen. I knew I'd get done for it because I was the last person to see him."

Mr McLachlan told the jury how two other cards belonging to Mr Hammerton were later discovered in a bag of dog biscuits under the sink of Solomon's home while a key that fitted Mr Hammerton's front door was also found in a grid outside.

Solomon denies the charge of murder, one of theft and two of fraud.

The trial continues.