Violence “suddenly erupted" over a children's dispute between two families on a traveller site in Wickford, a court heard.

Opening for the prosecution, barrister Simon Denison told the court how Levi Draper, 27, and Harriet Crittenden, 25, attacked Esther Doherty with a knife and machete.

Crittenden is also known as Sherri-Ann and is referred to as such by all parties.

Draper then shot Esther's brother Hugh Doherty who had run to her aid at Willow Farm, in Cranfield Park Avenue, Wickford.

The defendants are expecting their fourth child and lived at Willow Farm at the time of the incident which took place on April 16 this year. They deny all charges.

Mr Denison said: “This case is about a minor argument between two families’ children fighting. It suddenly and inexplicably erupted into violence on Easter Sunday.”

He went on to explain that Esther had been at the Dick Turpin pub with her partner John Cooper, who is also Draper’s uncle, and two of their seven children when she heard about a Facebook post from Crittenden.

The two families’ children had been fighting and both sets of parents blamed each other for what had happened, leading to ill-feeling between them.

Mr Denison added: “Esther chose to go and speak to Sherri-Ann alone instead of the two men arguing about it. She says she knocked on the door and it was answered by Draper and Sherri-Ann’s son.

“Esther says that Sherri-Ann came straight to her and hit her on the head with a blue double-edged knife. She grabbed the knife to protect herself and she was hit again in her right shoulder and her hand.”

The prosecution said that Esther was dragged into the hallway and then the kitchen where Draper appeared with another long knife and took Esther back outside while “chopping her and causing deep cuts as she tried to protect herself.”

Mr Denison said: “Hugh had seen what was happening and had run back to get John Cooper. John was the first to get there and saw Esther lying on the ground covered in blood.

“He saw Draper holding something long which at the time he thought was a piece of wood in his hand. In fact, it was a shotgun.

“Hugh Doherty appeared and Levi Draper raised the gun and shot him in the chest.”

The incident took place in front of Esther and John’s 13-year-old daughter and her 14-year-old cousin.

Mr Denison said: “Each of them says they saw Esther on the ground and Sherri-Ann on the steps holding the knife raised up as if in triumph.”

Hugh and Esther were put in the car by John Cooper and other relatives and driven to Basildon Hospital where Hugh was pronounced dead that evening.

After the incident, the defendants “quickly bundled some belongings and their children into the car” and drove away.

They were arrested two days later when they were seen driving down the A12.

Mr Denison said: “They’ve told police what happened. They have both said that Hugh and Esther Doherty were the aggressors and they did nothing more than defend themselves.”

Draper is charged with the murder of Hugh Doherty, the attempted murder of Esther Doherty, wounding with intent and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.

Crittenden, also known as Sherri-Ann, is charged with the attempted murder of Esther Doherty, wounding with intent and possession of an offensive weapon.

The trial continues.