The man accused of murdering 16-year-old Louise Smith told a court he ‘lost control’ in a fit of rage during an argument about her drug use.

Prosecutors say Shane Mays, 30, led his niece to a woodland area before inflicting a series of heavy blows to her face and then violating her body in a ‘sexually motivated’ attack.

He admits manslaughter but denies murder, claiming he ‘convinced himself’ he hadn’t killed her until after he was arrested and taken to Bristol Prison.

Louise’s body was found badly burned in Havant Thicket, Hampshire, on May 21 – 13 days after her disappearance on VE Day.

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Mays, who is married to the victim’s aunt, told Winchester Crown Court Louise appeared ‘happy’ when she first moved in with them on April following a dispute with her mother, Rebecca Cooper.

The defendant admitted he would ‘sometimes get angry’ with his niece, who refused to do chores and smoked cannabis in the house.

Giving evidence in his trial for the first time, Mays claimed Louise asked him to accompany her to a nearby skatepark on the day of her death ‘because she didn’t like to walk alone’.

He said she told him she ‘just wanted to talk’ and decided to go with her as she ‘had never opened up to him’ before.

The defendant said she confided in him that she might split up with her boyfriend.

Mays claimed he genuinely believed he was leaving his home to escort Louise to a skatepark and that she had ‘lied’ to him as an excuse to get him alone.

Holding his hands behind his back, he explained: ‘She said she would like to go to meet her friend and to pick up some clothes.

‘Halfway up the hill, she told me that it was a lie, she is no longer meeting her friends, she just wanted to get me out on my own so that she could have a chat.

The jury heard how Louise spoke about her boyfriend Bradley Kercher, who was planning to visit her for a full weekend stayover starting later that afternoon.

Mays continued: ‘We spoke about that she wanted to break up with him because she was not too sure if she was in love with Bradley and we were talking about the arguments that they have.’

Asked by his lawyer if Louise had ever spoken to him in that way previously, Mays said: ‘No, never. She would never open up to me.’

The defendant told the court how he retaliated after his niece hit him with a stick as the conversation descended into an argument about her drug use.

He said: ‘She wanted to do weed again and I said it is not a good idea because she suffers with depression and things like that. I said I know all about that.

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‘She was getting all aggressive about it and started shouting, raising her voice. She said about that she wanted to start taking weed again so I said to her, “do you want to end up like your mum?”‘

Mays added: ‘I grabbed the branch off her, threw it against the floor and then I punched her. Her face. Because I was angry for what she did the night before and just then.’

The court heard Louise had ‘tried to run away’ the day before she went missing and his wife had been ‘angry and upset’ that she didn’t want to live with the couple.

Mays continued: ‘The first punch she was standing, the second punch she went down. I was angry and I lost control of myself.

‘I got up and began to walk away. I looked back and I heard her moaning and then I just carried on walking.’

Mays, who said he stood at 6ft tall and weighed around 17 stone, told the court that when Louise was on the ground he continued punching her while bending down and said he did not know how many times he had punched her.

When asked if he had broken any bones in her face, Mays said: ‘I heard cracks but I am not sure.’

As he left the woods, Mays claimed he had seen three men sitting on logs by the side of the road but claimed neither he nor they had paid much attention to each other.

The jury heard how Mays had then gone to visit his mother’s home to pick up a HDMI lead, stayed for a brief social visit and then went home.

In both his mother’s house and his own, he told his family that he had taken Louise to Emsworth skatepark. He told the court: ‘That is what I thought I did.’

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His lawyer Andrew Langdon QC said: ‘We know of course Mr Mays that none of it is true, why did you say it?’

The defendant replied that he ‘convinced’ himself it was true and that he only remembered what he had done when he went to Bristol Prison after he was arrested for murder.

In cross-examination Mays denied having thrown Louise’s phone away, setting fire to her body, inserting a stick in her or creating a hole in her stomach.

He also denied killing her, stating he did not know who had, despite admitting to manslaughter.

Prosecutor James Newton-Price QC said: ‘You did not kill Louise, who did? Who put a stick up her vagina? Who burned her body? Who made a hole in her stomach?

‘Do I take it from all that that it was not you, that it was someone else? Whoever did it, it was not you?’

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The prosecutor asked Mays to think carefully about the answer to another question before asking: ‘Is there anything more you can tell us about how she died and how her body was so dreadfully treated?’

Admitting he was sorry for the fact Louise died, Mays said: ‘I think I have told you enough.’

The defendant told the court that he had known the victim since she was 13 and told the court he ‘had always known Louise wanted to call me Dad’.

Jurors heard how Louise had previously been living with Mays and his wife Chazlynn, known as ‘CJ’ at a different address in Montague Road, in nearby Portsmouth.

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The defendant said: ‘I have always known since Montague. She wanted me to be her dad in Montague and then it just went tits up.

‘Someone put a stop to Louise living with us. I was told it was Rebecca.’

He said tensions started to develop and he and his wife argued with the teenager for not doing chores and smoking weed.

Mays said: ‘She would be sitting around doing nothing, looking monged all the time.’

He also said a Snapchat video in which he can be seen ‘attacking and tickling’ Louise was just ‘playful’ although he did sometimes ‘get angry with her’.

Mays denied touching flirting with Louise or touching her in a sexual way.

When Louise first moved in with the Mays, she had told her boyfriend she was planning to legally change her last name to theirs, but later complained the pair were ‘vile’ and said she wanted to leave.

The defendant said: ‘It changed. There was arguments. It was about doing chores, washing up, hoovering, cleaning the area by her bed. Arguments between me and Louise, sometimes CJ.’

Jurors heard how on the day of her disappearance, Louise took a walking route with May, estimated at around 50 minutes duration, which led them to a clearing in Havant Thicket, where the victim’s body was later found.

Asked by Langdon why his DNA was on Louise’s mobile, Mays said: ‘A couple of times we had taken the phone away from Louise, because of misbehaviour. Not for very long.’

A forensic scientist previously explained that blood stains found on Mays’ Adidas trainers were ‘one billion times’ more likely to have come from Louise Smith than someone else.

Mays told the court he had left the local Park Community School at the age of 15 years and had worked in a number of roles since, including tarmacking, in factories and what he called ‘mechanics jobs’.

But he had not worked since the age of 24 and had survived on £50 a fortnight, given to him by his wife who was claiming Employment and Support Allowance, the court heard.

He said he usually only left the house to go to the shops and often played Xbox for nine hours a day.

The jury heard Mays, who was with an intermediary in the dock because he had learning difficulties, had no previous convictions.

However he had one reprimand for an assault in 2005 and one caution for a theft when Mays was 18.

Asked about those incidents, Mays said: ‘I assaulted another boy for picking on a disabled kid.

‘I bought a stolen pushbike online. I did not know it was stole at the time, the police came around and told me about the stolen property that I had just brought.’

The trial continues.

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