A DEFENDANT in the Alison McBlain murder trial has told the jury that he would never have arranged for someone to be killed over a £60 drug debt.

Jon-Paul Chatwood, 26, was called as the first defence witness yesterday at Preston Crown Court, and when questioned by Mark Ford QC about his involvement in Ms McBlain’s death, said he would ‘definitely not’ arrange a murder over £60.

Chatwood was asked questions about the background to the Bully line, a drugs phone line he operated in Blackburn in 2019, which was used by Christian Rivers and Ms McBlain the night before she suffered fatal injuries when a car hit the pair in Blackburn.

He told the court that he set up the line with friend and co-defendant, Dean Qayum, and that initially, he took an active role in delivering drugs in and around Blackburn.

But due to pressure from his girlfriend, who wanted him to stop dealing, he said he no longer participated in the day-to-day running of the set-up.

Chatwood said co-defendant Kaylib Connolly, who he had known for some time, was also involved with the Bully line.

He told the court: “I continued to be involved. I would source the drugs. The profits were split 50/50 between me and Dean, and then we would pay Kaylib (Connolly).

“After I took a step back, Dean took over, and Kaylib became the designated driver as he was the one who could drive.”

Chatwood said he would be in daily contact with Connolly via phone, and also with Qayum, who was living with him at the time.

However, when questioned about his actions following the incident on November 18 2019, in which Christian Rivers had ‘taxed’ what he said was around £60 worth of drugs from Connolly, Chatwood denied making a plan, or telling his co-defendants to find Mr Rivers.

He told the jury Connolly had contacted him that evening to tell him Mr Rivers had stolen some drugs from him, and that the only thing he said in retaliation was: “I said something along the lines of ‘I hope he overdoses on brown.’”

He also denied ever speaking with co-defendant Karis Poynton, or offering her drugs in exchange for information on Mr Rivers’ whereabouts.

Mr Ford QC said: “Would you arrange the murder of someone because they owed you £60 for drugs?” Chatwood replied: “Definitely not.”

On November 19, the day Alison McBlain was run down, Chatwood had been shopping with Connolly and had returned to his home in Walsh Street and remained there for the rest of the evening.

Chatwood said Qayum left Walsh Street around 6.30pm and the first he heard about what happened to Ms McBlain and Mr Rivers was when Connolly called him.

He said: “On the basis of that call alone I understood that he’d hit Christian with a car but he didn’t go into details about anything else so I didn’t know.

“Then Dean came back home and was panicking. He told me they drove down to see Christian to get the money back and give him a slap and what happened had happened. Then Kaylib and Josh (Titterington) came about ten minutes later. I was speaking to Kaylib.

“He said he didn’t mean to do it. He was upset. He was worried. I could tell by how he was speaking and his face.

“He said he drove the car, and hit the kerb, and then hit them by accident.”

Chatwood denies telling Qayum, Connolly, Titterington, or the youth to destroy the car following the incident.

Titterington, 26, of Scotland Bank Terrace, Blackburn; Qayum, 20, of Patterdale Avenue, Blackburn; a 16-year-old boy who cannot be named for legal reasons; Connolly, 18, of Ivy Street, Blackburn; Poynton, 27, of Whalley Road; and Chatwood, 26, of Walsh Street, Blackburn, deny murdering Ms McBlain and attempting to murder Mr Rivers.