A father-to-be confided in friends about his fear of his killers hours before they butchered him in his bedroom, a jury was told yesterday.

Danny Gough, 24, of Woodside, spoke "every day" of Stephen Dougherty and Sam Monteith, of Brighton Road, Sutton, who are accused of his murder, in the run-up to his horrific slaying in the early hours of December 14, 2010.

Mr Dougherty, 35, of Essex, is alleged to have been "director and mastermind" of a frenzied attack in Stockbury Road, Croydon, in which three masked killers inflicted 32 wounds, some 23cm deep, in less than four minutes.

He and Mr Monteith, 32, are said to have recruited 29-year-old Paul West to help keep Mr Gough under surveillance before all three allegedly took part in the carefully plotted killing.

The jury heard Mr Gough was attacked with a "hacking or slashing" weapon, thought to be either an axe or a machete, as well as a long blade, possibly a sword.

His killers, who remained silent throughout the attack, left him with injuries so severe some internal organs spilled out of his body.

They had broken through the front door of the house and headed directly for the first floor room in which Mr Gough was sleeping with his girlfriend Kareena Modashia.

Prosecutor Mark Heywood said: "They dragged him from his bed. He was almost naked.

"One of his attackers sprayed him in the face with caustic ammonia in a cleaning liquid bottle and another kicked him in the head while he was on the floor.

"The third was axing with a heavy implement down onto his body."

The court heard Miss Modashia was also sprayed with caustic liquid as she tried desperately to help Mr Gough.

His killers left after one of them declared "he's dead", said Mr Heywood. They sprayed Miss Modashia's mum, who was woken by the attack, with the liquid as they left.

Mr Gough had suffered massive blood loss before paramedics could reach him and was declared dead the scene.

The court heard he had been "jumpy and alert" the day before his death and had told family members he believed Mr Dougherty and Mr Monteith wanted him dead.

Prosecutor Mark Heywood QC said Mr Gough had feared reprisals for a raid on Mr Monteith's home in Wallington which he and two other men stabbed Mr Monteith and sprayed him with ammonia.

That attack, in early November, had itself been in retaliation for a fight outside a Wimbledon pub in which Mr Dougherty and Mr Monteith assaulted Leanne Meredith, a close friend of Mr Gough with a long-running feud with Mr Dougherty.

Mr Heywood said: "The result was yet more escalating violence in which the score was settled and then raised by the other side. It was this process which led directly to Danny Gough's death."

But James Scobie, Mr Dougherty's defence barrister, told the jury to "take nothing for granted" and said Mr Gough had many enemies who might have wanted him dead.

He said: "Danny Gough was butchered and no one deserves what he got that night. He was butchered in cold blood and the issue effectively is who did it."

He added: "Danny Gough was a very unpopular man and a number of different people for a number of different reasons did not like him.

"This is not Hollywood and neither he [Mr Dougherty] nor his barrister is not going to tell you who did it, but we are going to tell you coolly and calmly of other people who could possibly have committed this barbaric butchery."

He warned the jury the trial would be a difficult journey through a "grim" underworld, adding: "It is going to be difficult for you to accept that this is the sort of thing that goes on every day."

All three accused deny murder. The trial of Mr Dougherty and Mr West is expected to last five weeks.

Mr Monteith, who is to ill to face court, will be tried at a later date.

The case continues.