Last year, the (mostly) annual St. Paul’s Carnival was put back from its usual slot in July to September, due to police pressure. In the early hours of Sunday 16th September following Carnival, a man died, having been stabbed at the Criterion pub on Lower Ashley Road. That man was Mohamoud Muse Hassan.
For the past week or so, a young woman has been on trial for his murder at Bristol Crown Court, having already admitted manslaughter. That woman is April Bright.
Today I went down to watch proceedings, for the simple reason that this happened in my neighbourhood, and that the accused is a neighbour. There’s not really much to say, except that it’s a sad case in which many lives have been touched in horrible ways.
This morning there were three witnesses. First was Ms Bright’s friend Courtney Wood, who was presented with a verbal statement he had made to police on the day of the killing, as well as a subsequent statement made this October. Mr Wood had great difficulty recalling details of the day after Carnival, of his talking with police that day, and of the October interview. He did, however, accept that Ms Bright had told him about the incident with Mr Hassan. He denied that she had told him that Mr Hassan had been sexually harassing her, though he said others had told him that. Mr Wood often answered questions “I don’t know,” or “I can’t really remember”.
The second witness was Roy Burnett. He had been at the Blue Mountain until the early hours of the Sunday morning. After leaving the club at around 2:40am, he headed down Wilder Street with a friend in a car, where he spotted Ms Bright with a man called Eldon. Mr Burnett approached Eldon, but he ran off. Mr Burnett asked Ms Bright to get him back, but according to him, she became aggressive and pulled out a large, kitchen-style knife, at which point he pushed her away by the throat, and then left the area. The defence suggested that he had punched her in the face, but Mr Burnett denied this, asking in retort, “Did she have any marks?”, and insisting he had pushed her away by the throat.
The third witness was Simon Curran. He had been at Carnival during the day with his girlfriend and her friend, and then later at the Blue Mountain. On leaving the Blue Mountain some time around 4am, the three walked down Wilder Street. Here there was an altercation with a young woman who broadly matched the description of Ms Bright, in which a large, kitchen-style knife was brandished, with which Mr Curran’s girlfriend was nicked in the face. Mr Curran had a distinctive way of talking. When asked a question, he would often preface his reply, “I believe I said in my statement…” He described the woman he came across on Wilder Street as “petite, slight.”
Also presented by the prosecution were witness statements from a friend of Ms Bright [ETA: Kasmira Conlon], who had been with her and her family for most of Carnival evening, and who had been in Tasties when two Somali men had been harrassing Ms Bright and her friends, and later at the Criterion when Mr Hassan staggered out of the pub with his neck wound. She was in the area still when the emergency services arrived, with the police taping off the scene. She saw Ms Bright there, and described her as looking “pissed off”.
One thing in particular from the day’s evidence does stick out: a statement from one police officer [ETA: PC Jeremy Cowburn] was read out. In it he detailed how he was on duty on the Sunday afternoon following Carnival, in the aftermath of Mr Hassan’s killing. He described being in a patrol car with a colleague, which had responded to a call on Brunswick Square. On leaving Brunswick Square, they drove up Upper York Street towards Stokes Croft, where he spotted Ms Bright and Mr Wood by the billboard at the junction of City Road, Stokes Croft and Upper York Street. The officer describes Ms Bright turning away from him as if to hide her face. The officer says he recognised her from having previously seen her picture. The police car turned left onto Stokes Croft, then all the way around the St. James’ Barton roundabout and up Stokes Croft again, and then turning right onto City Road, down which he could see Mr Wood walking on his own, with Ms Bright nowhere to be seen. It was here that Mr Wood is said to have told police that he had just been with Ms Bright, that she had told him about Mr Hassan’s death earlier that day, and that she had gestured with her hands in a manner which suggested a stabbing motion. Today Mr Wood could not recall such details.
Yet Upper York Street between Moon Street and City Road is one-way; only traffic either making a right turn from Stokes Croft or a left turn from City Road can turn down it. Traffic going up Upper York Street must turn left onto Moon Street, which leads to the North Street end of Stokes Croft outside the Blue Mountain and by St. James’ Barton roundabout.
The trial is still going on, so I guess I can’t really say much more about some of what went on in the court, or outside, or what happened around here when it was all going on last September. All in all it’s a sad little affair, with no winners.
The Evening Post’s reportage of the court proceedings:
My blog posts about the killing from last year:
Edited 5pm 25/11/08 for typos, to add names and latest Post link
Last edited 1pm 3/12/08 to add latest Post link