A SUSPECT in a historic murder trial appeared in court more than 21 years after his alleged victim was gunned down.

Howard Patterson, of no fixed abode, denies shooting Terrence 'Jeff' Allamby at his Newtown flat in Morriss Court in September 1996.

Allamby, 43, was found with two gunshot wounds to his chest in the Mandela Court area of the town and Errington Lloyd Marks was jailed for life in May 1997 for ordering the killing.

Giving evidence on the first day of the trial at Reading Crown Court on Tuesday, Henroy Dryden said: "I know who fired that gun. I was no more than four feet away from the man who pulled the trigger and murdered my friend.

"The man who pulled the trigger I know is Howie. I saw my best friend take it in the chest and go down."

Police swooped on Patterson, 52, at Heathrow Airport in March after he was extradited from America, having changed his name and gone on the run.

Reading Chronicle: Michael Holland, defending Patterson, questioned why Dryden neglected to tell police the name of the gunman.

Dryden was interviewed three times and only ever referred to a man called "L" or "Al".

The second victim escaped without injury after the bullet that struck him hit a gun which was tucked into the waistband of his jeans.

The court heard that a prolific drug gang had split into 'factions' and Dryden said he had only known Patterson for a short time before the shooting.

Alison Hunter, prosecuting, said a fight broke out between Allamby and Jamaican drug dealer Marks over wages.

Allamby was one of the key campaigners behind Reading Central Club and features on the town's black history mural on the IDR.

Patterson is charged with one count of murder, another of attempted murder of Mr Dryden, and carrying a firearm with intent to endanger life.

The trial, being overseen by Judge Johanna Cutts, continues.