Richard Littler KC secures third murder acquittal this year

August 2, 2023

Richard Littler KC from Exchange Chambers has secured an acquittal for his client on murder and manslaughter charges.

James Johnson, 29, claimed he feared he was going to be ‘raped or sexually assaulted’ by David Toulson, so put him in a ‘guillotine chokehold’ during birthday celebrations at a flat in Salford.

He then called 999 and told operators: “Someone tried to rape me and I’ve killed them’.” He later added: “I think I’ve killed my friend.”

Mr Toulson’s cause of death was found to be asphyxia, resulting from compression to the neck.

Manchester Crown Court previously heard Mr Johnson, who is a straight man; Mr Toulson, who was gay; and two women had been out celebrating Mr Toulson’s birthday on June 25 last year.

On returning to Mr Toulson’s flat later in the evening, the partner of one of the women received a ‘pin’ from Mr Johnson showing his location, along with two voice notes, the first saying: “Tommo I’m worried, I need you to send the police where we are”.

His friend thought he was drunk and ‘did not take him seriously’.

Around an hour later, Mr Johnson called 999 in which he said “Someone tried to rape me and I’ve killed them.” During that call, one of the women can also be heard to say ‘I think we’ve been given ketamine’. Neither were able to give the operator the address and the call ended.

Several minutes later Mr Johnson made a second call in which the court heard he said: “I think I’ve killed my friend.” He sobbed as he told the operator that his friend had told him he had some cocaine back at the flat but had given them ketamine, and that the two women had passed out and that his friend ‘hadn’t moved for the past 20 minutes.’

Emergency services attended, but Mr Toulson was sadly pronounced dead at the scene.

Mr Johnson was arrested, and told officers over a number of police interviews that he had taken some of the white powder he believed to be cocaine, felt unwell and had gone to the bathroom to be sick and that whilst there Mr Toulson ‘tried to drag him out of the bathroom and into the bedroom in order – so he believed – to have sex with him’.

He later told officers that he had put Mr Toulson in what he called a ‘guillotine hold’ around his neck and that ‘he kept hold of in that hold until he felt it was safe to let go’.

Giving evidence, Mr Johnson said he used the chokehold on Mr Toulson to ‘gain control’ after taking a drug he believed to be cocaine.

He said: “I decided I would try and gain control because I believed Dave was going to rape me.”

“I had very little control over my body and I was scared I was going to pass out. I was trying to regain control.

“I was scared if I blacked out he would end up raping me. I wanted to gain control of the situation and that’s what I thought was the best option for me to do that,” he added.

On Monday afternoon (July 31) jurors found Mr Johnson not guilty of murder and not guilty of an alternative count of manslaughter.

Richard Littler KC was instructed by Kerry Morgan, Director at Morgan Brown & Company.

In June this year, Richard Littler KC secured the only acquittal in a multi-handed murder, rape and false imprisonment trial at Sheffield Crown Court –

In May this year, Richard Littler KC also secured a not guilty verdict for his client in a murder trial at Leicester Crown Court –