The daughter of a man who died following an arson attack told how Aaron Wilks, 38, of Bognor Regis, threatened to burn down a caravan in which she and her fiancé had been staying, Portsmouth Crown Court heard yesterday (November 2).
Miss Charlotte Stoakes said she had been living in a caravan at the front of her parent's house in Oak Grove, for some time, and that she moved inside the property after she was made aware of Mr Wilks' threats. The caravan, she added, was later sold to ensure her safety.
Speaking in court, Miss Stoakes said she heard about threats some time before the attack on her father.
The defence noted that Miss Stoakes failed to mention these threats in her initial police statement. Asked why, Miss Stoakes replied that she had been so shocked by the attack on April 8, she neglected to mention them. When pressed about who originally told her of the threats, Miss Stoakes explained that it was most likely her parents, but said she could not remember for certain. She went on to deny the defence's suggestion that the caravan was sold not to keep herself and her fiancé safe, but to pay off her father's debt.
Mr Wilks is on trial for the murder of Miss Stoakes' father, Mark, following an attack on his home on April 8. He was admitted to hospital with serious burns soon after the attack and died three weeks later, on April 30.
Wilks has pleaded not guilty to the murder, as well as to charges of blackmail and application of explosive substance with intent. He has admitted charges of arson, property damage and possession of a bladed article.
Another witness, Harry Shenton, described seeing Wilks acting threateningly towards the family in the months leading up to the attack. Mr Shenton- who is in a relationship with Mr Stoakes' other daughter, Paige Stoakes, and lives with the family- recalled an instance in which Wilks appeared at the property with a knife, another in which he kicked the front door and a third in which he stood outside the property and shouted 'you have ten days to give me my money.'
The trial is ongoing and is expected to last three weeks.