Murder suspect Julian Felisi sold pouches of tobacco on several occasions to his alleged victim Gary Bennett, a court heard this afternoon.

At one stage Mr Bennett was buying the tobacco from Mr Felisi and passing it on to another colleague, Martin Sales, for a period of up to three months.

Witnesses described Mr Bennett acting “out of character” in the days leading up to his death, saying he was “grumpier” and “more irritable” than usual.

Mr Sales, who drove the lorry on which Mr Bennett worked, said he saw him on his phone to someone in the middle of a shift shortly after 6am on the Friday before he was killed – something Mr Sales had never seen him do before.

A statement by Mr Bennett's 81-year-old mother Alice, read out to the court, explained her son had not seemed himself in the days before he died – “like something was on his mind”.

This was supported by testimony from Mr Sales who said Mr Bennett was clearly unhappy about something, though he assumed it wasn't work related and decided not to ask questions.

Mr Felisi, charged with Mr Bennett's murder, claims he drove the 46-year-old to Aldenham Country Park, on the morning of his death, for a tobacco deal with two Irishmen who then killed him.

The court heard Mr Felisi, of Whippendell Road, would travel to France or Belgium to buy the tobacco in bulk before selling it when he got back to the UK at £6 a pack – about £2.50 cheaper than in shops.

Mr Sales told the court he stopped buying tobacco through Mr Bennett shortly before Christmas in 2009, and said he was not sure if Mr Bennett bought any more from Mr Felisi after that.

In her statement read out in court, Alice Bennett described her son as “a gentle giant who would avoid any sort of confrontation”.

She also explained that he had trouble reading and writing throughout his life and that she would often help him with any paperwork he brought home from work.

Mr Sales described his colleague as “simple” and “a big lovable oaf”, adding that he was not aware of anyone who bore a grudge against him.

The court also heard Mr Bennett was “a bit of a loner”, who would often take part in a joke at work but then “back into himself again”.

Mr Bennett, of Little Oxhey Lane, was found dead with severe head injuries in Aldenham Country Park, on February 24.

Julian Felisi, 37, was arrested and charged with his murder in March and faces a minimum of 15 years in prison if he is found guilty.

The pair both worked as bin men for Watford Borough Council, at the Wiggenhall Road depot.

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