A KILLER who stabbed a rival drug dealer to death during a fight at a house in Burnham-on-Sea was allegedly driven away from the scene just before police arrived at the scene.

Dealer Joe Pearce was killed by a single stab wound to his heart by Dominic Lacey at user James Hobbs's house in Churchill Close last July.

Mr Pearce and Lacey were both drug dealers who were competing to supply the same group of around 30 users in the seaside town.

Lacey had gone back to Hobbs's home in Burnham after they had both been in Bristol earlier in the day picking up a consignment of heroin and crack cocaine.

Mr Pearce, aged 40, went to the house with at least one friend either to rob Lacey or to attack him but he got the worse of the ensuing fight and suffered a fatal stab wound to his heart.

Lacey, aged 22, of Newham Place, Patchway, has admitted the manslaughter of Mr Pearce and will be sentenced later.

Hobbs, aged 43, of Churchill Close, Burnham, is on trial at Exeter Crown Court accused of assisting an offender.

Miss Kate Brunner, QC, prosecuting, told the jury Lacey had admitted carrying out the killing, which he says was in excessive self defence.

She said Hobbs helped Lacey escape from the scene by driving him away in his girlfriend Vicky Leonard's Peugeot car before police arrived.

Hobbs had been in Bristol earlier in the day and had returned to Churchill Close with Lacey, who had sent out a group text to 38 users advertising 'back in town, best of both'.

The text meant he had supplies of heroin and crack cocaine. At around the same time rival dealer Pearce messaged 27 potential customers, many the same as Lacey's saying 'got both, top things'.

Miss Brunner said Pearce knew Lacey was at Hobbs's home and went there around 11.30 pm on July 9 last year, leading to the fight in which he died.

She played the jury a tape of the 999 call made by Miss Leonard at 11.55 pm in which Hobbs and Lacey can be heard in the background. Both had gone by the time police arrived.

Hobbs drove Lacey to Weston-super-Mare, from where he took a taxi to his home in Bristol, while Hobbs returned and was arrested when he reached the police cordon around  the crime scene.

She said:"We say Hobbs drove his friend away from the scene where he had stabbed a man to death. He drove him away to help his friend.

"Mr Pearce was a drug user and dealer and both Hobbs and Lacey were involved in the world of drugs and drug dealing. This was a drug related incident.

"While the paramedics were trying to save Mr Pearce's life the defendant got into a car with Lacey, the man who had wielded the knife, and drove him away just before the police got there.

"During the journey they talked about what had happened and Lacey said he had stabbed and killed and man and referred to murder."

Miss Brunner said phone cell site evidence and tracking of cars through number plate cameras showed Lacey and Hobbs had both been to Bristol during the day, arriving back at around 11 pm, when Lacey texted customers with his offer of drugs.

Phone records also showed Mr Pearce restocking with heroin and crack and contacting customers in Burnham on the same evening.

Pearce went to Churchill Close in a white van with two other men. Pearce called Lacey at 11.46 pm but there was no answer and it is likely they went to the house at that point.

She said:"By the late evening in Burnham, the two dealers were both stocked up and Lacey and Mr Pearce must have been in direct competition for the same drugs market in the town. By the end of the night, one had stabbed the other to death.

"We accept that Mr Pearce and other men went to Churchill Close with robbery or violence in mind and one or more of that group were armed with a knife or knives."