A CONVICTED murderer has failed in his bid to overturn a 30-year life sentence for the gunshot killing of a Westhoughton trucker.

Lawyers representing Nathan Daniels - guilty of gunning down 29-year-old Michael Blake in November 2016 - argued the withdrawal of his defence team at trial ensured he did not receive a fair hearing.

Daniels, from Stockport, was said to have shot dad-of-one Mr Blake twice, once in the knee and once to the back of his head, in a dispute over drugs, before his body was dumped near the victim’s Manchester Road home.

His barrister withdrew partway through the murder trial proceedings, amid an insistence the defendant had changed his account of the shooting and left him ‘professionally embarrassed’.

He opted to represent himself, even though alternative counsel was secured, and was convicted by a Manchester Crown Court jury of murder.

The Bolton News: Nathan Daniels.Nathan Daniels.

Mr Justice George Leggatt jailed Daniels for life, with a recommendation he serve at least 30 years before being eligible for parole.

Several others, who had accompanied Daniels and Mr Blake on a van journey to a remote location, were convicted of either manslaughter or assisting an offender.

An Appeal Court hearing was told that Daniels’ original account was that Mr Blake had produced the gun, during an argument, and he had struggled with him, resulting in the gun going off twice.

His barrister, Lewis Power QC, on receipt of a defence ballistics expert report, argued the fatal bullet to Mr Blake had ‘ricocheted’ off another surface, after being fired during the struggle between the defendant and the deceased.

But at trial, on reviewing evidence from clothing worn by Mr Blake at the time, prosecution and defence experts agreed both shots had been fired at close range.

The Bolton News: Michael Blake.Michael Blake.

The court heard when Daniels, according to Mr Power, changed his account to say he had wrested the gun from the victim after the first shot, pistol whipped him, then the weapon went off ‘accidentally in his hand’, the barrister felt compelled to withdraw.

At Daniels’ appeal his original legal team was criticised for their reliance on the ‘ricochet’ bullet defence, and it was claimed that there were alleged failings of the trial judge and prosecutor and the emergence of ‘’fresh’ ballistics evidence.

At the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Fulford, sitting with Mr Justice Dove and Mr Justice Fraser, rejected all four grounds of Daniels’ appeal, with the exception of his legal team’s position.

But Lord Justice Fulford, dismissing that ground, told the court it was Daniels’ choice not to be represented by alternative counsel and he had addressed the pertinent issues in the case while acting for himself.

The law lord added: “We are confident the central points in support of his case were clearly identified by him and all the relevant issues were dealt with by the judge in the summing up.

“This was, therefore, an unusual and unfortunate state of affairs but we are unpersuaded that the conviction is unsafe as a result.

“In the event, the applicant elected not to complete the trial with the assistance of appropriate replacement counsel and solicitors (albeit not of his choice), and the jury were in a position to return a verdict with all of the relevant matters set out in appropriate detail for their consideration.”

His original trial heard how Daniels, accompanied by Nathan Quigley and Joe Wilson, had travelled in a van to Westhoughton and picked Mr Blake up from his house before taking him to a nearby isolated area and shooting him.

The Bolton News: Flowers left at the scene of the murder of Michael Blake on Wigan Road, Westhoughton.Flowers left at the scene of the murder of Michael Blake on Wigan Road, Westhoughton.

Still alive, he was then dumped back outside his Manchester Road home and he died the following day in hospital.

Mr Blake's partner, Lauren Syddall, told the court: "My future was taken away from me that night."