A MAN accused of murdering his mate over an argument about a woman at a Boxing Day backyard BBQ at Mayfield repeatedly said "I'm sorry" before he was arrested trying to push his 4WD down the street.
Shaun Garry Johnson, now 38, on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to murdering Steven Michael O'Brien and faced the first day of a judge-alone trial in Newcastle Supreme Court.
Johnson, who will appear in court during the trial from a remote room at the courthouse due to COVID-19 concerns, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, admitting to stabbing his mate in the throat but claiming he was acting as a result of excessive self-defence.
Mr O'Brien, 50, his family and friends spent Boxing Day 2019 at his home in Silsoe Street, Mayfield, and were in the backyard when Johnson joined them later in the evening.
The group were all drinking alcohol and socialising happily for a number of hours, witnesses have said.
But sometime after Mr O'Brien's parents had gone to bed - leaving only Mr O'Brien, Johnson and another man - they key witness in the trial - in the backyard an argument began between Mr O'Brien and Johnson.
Following the exchange, the witness claims Mr O'Brien grabbed Johnson by his shirt and told him to leave before Johnson either picked up or pulled out a knife and slashed Mr O'Brien in the throat.
Johnson fled outside and tried unsuccessfully to start his car.
Meanwhile, Mr O'Brien, bleeding heavily from his throat, also went outside where he collapsed.
Johnson, according to witnesses, repeatedly apologised, saying "I'm sorry, I'm sorry".
The trial is expected to run for about a week.
More in tomorrow's Newcastle Herald.