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Girlfriend's hunt for raider's mask

PUBLISHED: 15:50 16 October 2001 | UPDATED: 10:40 03 March 2010

A MAN accused of murdering an Ipswich barmaid asked his girlfriend to hunt bushes for face masks hidden after the alleged attack, a jury heard today.

Leon Sobers drew a map to help Lavita Smith, his partner at the time, to find the yellow masks but her search proved unsuccessful, a jury at Norwich Crown Court was told.

A MAN accused of murdering an Ipswich barmaid asked his girlfriend to hunt bushes for face masks hidden after the alleged attack, a jury heard today.

Leon Sobers drew a map to help Lavita Smith, his partner at the time, to find the yellow masks but her search proved unsuccessful, a jury at Norwich Crown Court was told.

"He just wanted me to go to a bushed area down the road from Harleys Pub and see if I could see some mask," Miss Smith said.

She told the court the masks were made from the sleeves of a yellow t-shirt belonging to Sobers.

The day after the alleged December 10 raid on Harleys, last year, Sobers, of Birkfield Drive, Ipswich,

asked Miss Smith to hide the t-shirt from which the masks had been cut.

The 23-year-old along with Damien Dubery, 21, of Morland Road, Ipswich, have both denied the murder Janet Fleming.

"On the Monday 11, when I spoke to Leon he asked me to hide a yellow t-shirt," she told the jury.

"After that, I was told the masks he used were from that t-shirt that I had to hide."

Miss Smith told the court how she hid the shirt under a carpet in the flat the couple shared.

When she later told her 23-year-old boyfriend where the shirt was hidden, he "went into the bathroom and was ripping up something and then flushing the toilet," she said.

Miss Smith told the court how she and Sobers had gone to stay at Sobers' mother's home and at an Ipswich bed and breakfast hotel some time after the alleged pub raid.

"We thought we'd just get away from the flat because of what had happened. What happened to Janet Fleming," she said.

Elizabeth Marsh, QC, prosecuting, asked Miss Smith if she spoke to Sobers about Janet Fleming after the attack.

"He said that they were doing a robbery and that Janet was still there when they came downstairs," Miss Smith replied.

"She was there with the landlord and they didn't expect Janet to be there and basically that Leon had taken the landlord to get the money and that Damien chased after the woman, that was Janet. And then he done what he done.

"I kept asking Leon why and he kept saying he didn't know and it wasn't his fault and he didn't actually see what Damien had done because he was inside the pub and Damien was outside the pub."

The Honourable Mr Justice Moses told the jury that Miss Smith's comments about what Sobers had said about Duberry could not be used as evidence against Duberry, only against Sobers.

Earlier the court heard that a woman was heard to plead with her attackers "Please don't hurt me" three times.

The appeals were heard by a baker on the night Ms Fleming was found with fatal injuries outside the pub where she worked.

The 38-year-old died two days after she was found outside Harleys on Stoke Park Drive.

The court heard how a baker in a nearby shop saw a masked man stamping on something on the ground near the pub between 11.15pm and 11.30pm that night.

"He stamped about six times. Then jumped on whatever it was, both legs raised, landing on whatever it was he had been attending to on the other side of the wall," Miss Marsh said.

"The man was wearing a mask and that man went back into Harleys public house."

At around 11.15pm that night a couple heard a woman scream and a man shout. Another person heard a woman shout three times: "Please don't hurt me."

"We say that was Janet Fleming. We say her attacker was Mr Duberry," Miss Marsh told the court.

The jury heard how Ms Fleming, 38, had just left her Sunday shift for home when the pub's temporary landlord, Andrew Hull, "became aware of a noise".

Walking along the side of Harleys to see what the sound was, he was "confronted by two men running towards him".

The masked men pushed him through the pubs doors, threatening him as they demanded money, Miss Marsh told the court.

Mr Hull was hit by a hard blow which dazed him and was forced to open the pub's safe, she told the court.

Duberry and Sobers also deny robbing Mr Hull of £2,845.74 and a gold bracelet.

The trial continues.

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