A MAN has pleaded guilty to the murder of a 46-year-old tattoo artist from Haslingden, on the day his murder trial was set to begin.

Shahid Hussain, 38, of no fixed address, was due to stand trial today for the murder of Michael Dale in May this year.

But at Preston Crown Court this afternoon, Hussain appeared in the dock to plead guilty to the killing.

Family and friends of both Mr Dale and Hussain were gathered in court to hear the trial before the court was informed by Francis McEntee, prosecuting, that Hussain had changed his plea.

Hussain had entered a not-guilty plea in August this year.

Emergency services were called to Mr Dale’s home in Charles Lane, Haslingden at 1.15am on Thursday May 2.

The popular tattoo artist, who was the former owner of the Ink Spot Tattoo Studio on Deardengate in Haslingden, was found with a single stab wound to his chest and died from his injuries.

Police launched a murder investigation and Hussain was charged six days later. He will be sentenced on Wednesday.

Reading out Hussain's basis of plea, Mr McEntee said the defendant admitted attending the victim's address in the early hours to purchase Class A drugs which he had done before earlier in the day.

Hussain said he wanted to buy the drugs on credit as before, but Mr Dale had refused.

The defendant said he then spotted some drugs on a windowsill which he tried to take and an argument and then struggle with Mr Dale followed, during which the murdered man pulled a knife. 

Hussain said he used "excessive self-defence" to then stab Mr Dale before leaving the scene.

Mr McEntee told the court that a knife later recovered from a grate did have traces of Mr Dale's DNA on its handle suggesting he had used the knife before.

"All we can say for certain is that there was a knife at the scene, but we cannot say with certainty who picked up the knife first" said Mr McEntee, who added Hussain's account was "plausible" and "fitted the evidence".

"The person with most reason (to use the knife) was the man whose goods were threatened," said Mr McEntee, who described Mr Dale as "a low level drug dealer acting for a man called 'T'."

Remanding Hussain in custody, Judge Robert Altham told him he had committed "a grave offence" and told him to return to court on Wednesday when he will be sentenced.