A MAN accused of the murder of a former soldier 13 years ago has given his evidence in court and told the jury that he struck his victim with a baseball bat in self-defence because he feared the other man would “wallop” him.

Neil Sutherland, from Trowbridge, previously served a four-year prison sentence for grievous bodily harm for the attack against father-of-three Paul Mills. He was charged with murder, which he denies, after Mr Mills allegedly died from his injuries years later.

This week Sutherland told Salisbury Crown Court that he was being driven to Southwick by a friend on the day of the incident, when they stopped in a lay-by as they saw Mr Mills and his friends approaching.

He said Mr Mills began “hustling” him for money by trying to sell him a baseball bat because he wanted to buy some more cider.

Describing Mr Mills, he said: “He liked to put himself across as a bit of an outlaw, someone you do not fall out with.”

He continued: “He put the bat through the window, gesturing and being a bit irritating - he was trying to irritate me.”

He said he felt Mr Mills was implying that “if you give me some money I will back off and drop the attitude”.

Sutherland, 35, said that after he got out of the car, Mr Mills “walloped him” by hitting him around the head with his hand.

Sutherland said: “He was losing it, proper off it, he was losing his patience, being aggressive.”

Describing Mr Mills, Sutherland said: “He was a bit angry, losing his temper, threw his drink, he came storming along the pavement towards myself in an aggressive manner.

“I panicked, took the seatbelt off, he was shouting, being abusive. I thought he was going to finish what he had started before.”

He said he picked up the bat from the van and a struggle ensued . He said he did not want to return the bat to Mr Mills because “I was afraid he was going to wallop me a second time but with the bat this time.”

He said that during the struggle “I swung the bat at him, the bat did hit Paul”. Sutherland said his father then told him to get into his van .

James Newton-Price QC, defending, has told the court that Sutherland, who is being assisted by an intermediary in court, has a “mild learning disability” which “may reduce his level of responsibility”.

The trial continues.