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David Oakes gives evidence in double murder trial
1:49pm Wednesday 2nd May 2012 in Local News
A man accused of shooting his ex-partner and their young daughter dead has described their "volatile relationship" to a court.
David Oakes is accused of killing Christine Chambers and their two-year-old daughter Shania at their home in Bartram Avenue, Braintree, Essex, in June last year.
The court has heard the pair had a history of domestic violence and were involved in a custody dispute over Shania at the time.
Today, Oakes, 50, of Canney Road, Steeple, Essex, entered the witness box at Chelmsford Crown Court and broke down in tears during parts of his evidence.
He said he was aware Miss Chambers had contacted police about his behaviour before the incident.
Oakes, who denies two counts of murder, added: "I struck her about five times but she also attacked me. She threw things at me and hit me."
He said he had been questioned by police after a tin of beans "fell on" the head of one of Miss Chambers' daughters from a previous relationship.
"It began as a joke with her saying I threw them. The police were called and in the end Chrissie told them the truth," Oakes said.
Oakes, who has been absent from court throughout much of the trial, said he had felt unable to attend hearings because of physical discomfort and the emotional trauma of reliving events.
He appeared in the dock wearing a black suit and with visible facial injuries suffered after he was shot during the incident.
Oakes said he had difficulty talking because of the wounds.
The prosecution has told the court he was shot in the face in a "suicide attempt gone wrong" during the incident.
But Oakes said: "As far as I know, I definitely did not shoot myself."
He said he met Miss Chambers 16 years ago but their relationship began five years ago.
"When I first met her we had a great time, she was a lovely person to be around," Oakes added.
But he said more recently Miss Chambers, 38, had sought a non-molestation order against him.
He said: "She drank to excess and was drunk very often.
"That caused tensions between us and she would get very bickery the more she drank.
"Most people would say they had never really seen me drunk. I knew when I'd had enough and didn't like being drunk."
Referring to previous relationships, he said "we had rows like anybody else" but said there was no history of domestic violence.
mfl Page 2: 12:37 Describing the shooting in the early hours of June 6, he said the couple had clashed throughout the night after he arrived at the house to drop off DIY tools.
He said: "We had been getting on for about the last hour and a half. We went to the bedroom and I was fiddling with her hair, and I thought we were going to have sex or something."
Oakes said Miss Chambers had asked him to get her a shotgun about three weeks earlier and it had been kept in the bedroom at her house.
He said: "She asked me 'how do you load the gun again?', so I put one shell in to show her.
"I went to the bathroom and there was Shania coming towards me. All of a sudden there was a flash and the baby was shot and she was laying down in the hallway. I thought the world had stopped."
He added that he was not sure if Miss Chambers had shot Shania deliberately or by accident.
"Everything was in slow motion. Chrissie was at the end of the bed on her knees and swinging the gun towards me," Oakes said.
"I grabbed the gun and I'm hitting her with the gun. I didn't care at that point. I'm not sure who was shot next. I was completely disorientated at that point.
"I'm not sure if I shot her in the leg or the bum - I was trying to stop her, to get back to my baby.
"Suddenly I feel a passing-out sensation. I don't know whether I got hit, whether I passed out. I just don't know what happened from there on.
"The next thing I know I'm in the hospital."
Asked if Shania was shot during a struggle between him and Miss Chambers, he said: "If there was a struggle, I would say there was a struggle."
mfl Page 3: 13:01 Oakes said he had "absolutely never" considered harming Shania, adding: "She was my world."
"I don't hurt children, I'm very good with kids," he added.
Oakes said Miss Chambers had approached him about three weeks earlier: "She asked me to get a gun and didn't say who it was for. I didn't want to but she said I wouldn't see my baby again.
"I made a few phone calls to people.
"She said she knew somebody who would give her £800 for one. I found one for about £300."
On June 5 Miss Chambers had asked him to drop off the tools, including a drill, hammer and superglue, so she could work on the house, he said.
Defence counsel Nigel Lithman QC asked if he had violence on his mind when he arrived to drop off the tools at about 10.45pm.
Oakes said: "Not at all. I'd had a nice time in the pub, two or three Scotches and a nice game of pool. I would not kill my family, and I did not intend to either."
Describing events earlier in the evening, he added: "I let myself into the house using a key I had since I lived there.
"I put the items down in the bedroom and I saw the gun.
"She asked me about money, she just started getting aggressive and came at me with what I thought was a knife but it was a pair of scissors.
"She clipped my head a little bit and ripped the sleeve off my top.
"She said she would call the old bill, so I cut her phone in half. Her daughter had a phone and went to grab it. Chrissie said 'No, not now' and she cut it in half.
"She was drunk and had been taking drugs."
Oakes said he had tried to help Miss Chambers by applying superglue to head wounds she had suffered in the clash but a fresh row had erupted and she attacked him with knives from the kitchen.