A TRAINEE bricklayer accused of clubbing a pensioner to death with a length of wood said he grabbed it because he was scared of being assaulted and wanted to ward off an attack.
Alec Pearn, who denies murdering Peter Seaman at a bus stop in Dobwalls, South East Cornwall, on August 7 last year, said he had been "frightened" for his safety following an altercation.
The 21-year-old, who was 20 at the time of the attack, told Truro Crown Court that he was sitting at the bus stop, quietly waiting for a lift from his father.
He became aware of Mr Seaman, who was blind in one eye, asthmatic and had recently undergone surgery on his knee, when the pensioner told him to move his outstretched legs or he would "bloody kick them".
Giving evidence in his own defence, Pearn, of Looe, South East Cornwall, said the man, who he believed to be in his mid-forties, "seemed very aggressive".
"He turned around and faced me so I stood up. I think he called me a f****** idiot," said Pearn.
He said Mr Seaman then picked up the younger man's rucksack, containing £300 which he intended to put towards buying a car, and tossed it over a hedge.
"I was a bit annoyed but I never lost my temper," said Pearn. He said the pensioner "seemed like he wanted to be the bigger person".
"I said 'why did you do that?'. I couldn't make out what he was saying. He was mumbling and swearing at me.
"He seemed quite aggressive. I said, 'are you going to hit me?'"
Pearn said Mr Seaman, who was walking his dog, swapped the lead to his other hand and clenched his fist.
Believing he was going to attacked, Pearn said he crossed the road and picked up a piece of wood lying on the grass verge, then returned.
"I was scared," he said. " I wanted him to walk away. I felt vulnerable, as though he was going to hit me.
"As soon as I went back across the road I said: 'Just walk away mate. Please do not come any closer. Just walk away.'
"All I can remember him saying was telling his dog to get me."
Pearn said he hit Mr Seaman three times, not the six to eight times suggested by the prosecution. He said he twice hit Mr Seaman on the arm and a third time on the head.
After the fight, Pearn fled and his victim was found lying in a gutter by Pearn's father Andrew, an off-duty paramedic.
Mr Seaman, from Dobwalls, died after a blow to the head triggered a brain haemorrhage.
Under cross-examination from Peter Blair QC, for the prosecution, Pearn was asked why he had initially said the wooden stick was close at hand then said he had crossed over the road to get it.
Pearn said it was a "mistake" made in the shock and confusion of being arrested.
He also denied the stick which was brought to court as an exhibit was the weapon. Pearn said he had thrown the stick away as he fled.
Mr Blair said the pensioner had tried to shield himself from the attack, but Pearn maintained he kept one his arm by his side and the other hand was holding the dog's lead.
Mr Blair questioned Pearn's assertion that he only hit Mr Seaman three times.
"Your account doesn't begin to be consistent with the number of injuries on Mr Seaman's body," he said.
"I promise you I only hit him three times," said Pearn.
The trial will resume on Monday.