THE man accused of murdering Scarborough mother Laura Smith was an obsessive and possessive character who has tried to “tiptoe away” from any responsibility over her death, a court heard.
Leeds Crown Court was told Nigel Pickard, 45, had attempted to emotionally blackmail 29-year-old Miss Smith over a supposed affair with another man and access to their seven-month-old daughter, before allegedly strangling her in an angry rage at her home in Southwold Rise, Eastfield, in July last year.
Prosecuting, Richard Wright asked Pickard why he had deliberately changed his account of events, citing his evidence that his former partner had physically attacked him in the struggle prior to her death, which he did not include in his initial police interview.
Pickard, who ran the Driving Ambition School of Motoring, refuted the allegation and said he was extremely confused in the hours after the fight.
He said: “I was heartbroken over the split, it was not Laura’s fault, it was my fault. In the police station my head had gone to mush, I was totally destroyed that I had started the fight.”
The court heard a number of character references from Pickard’s former driving pupils who praised him for his dedication and kind and caring demeanour.
However, Mr Wright told the court Pickard, of Filey Road, was actually the polar opposite and had deliberately changed his account because he knew he had “blown it” in the relationship, emphasised by the fact he went to see Miss Smith, complete with a soft toy panda for their daughter Olivia, to try and reconcile their differences.
He said: “You have tried to tiptoe your way out from it like you always do.
“It is all emotional blackmail with you, the threats to self harm or move away, you had never even bought a suitcase.
“You went around with that panda to weedle your way back into her affections. Is it not the reality that you did not want to lose Laura?
“That is why you lost your temper, you realised that you had blown it by your behaviour and killed her in temper.”
He added: “Perhaps there is another tragedy, that even now Nigel Pickard will say anything as he tries to avoid any responsibility because he lacks the courage and strength of character to admit that he murdered Laura.
“It is a tragedy that a father, in front of his child, killed that baby’s mother.”
Defending, Simon Reevell said: “None of this was planned and he turned up at the house to build bridges.
“That tells you all you need to know about how the relationship was.
“He did something that was completely out of character, he grabbed her by the throat but he wanted her to listen, he did not want her to die.
“He should not have done that and has never done that to anyone before.
“The headlock was not part of the fight, it was to calm her down.
“Prior to this you can be sure that if you speak to anyone that knew Nigel Pickard they would say he was a quiet, likeable and decent man.
“He has never been in trouble and makes a good impression on people when he meets them and if you had predicted that he would have been involved in these charges they would have looked at you aghast.
“He accepts he was responsible for Laura’s death, he will always be responsible, but he is not guilty of murder.”