The accused killer of Peter Battle claimed he found the antiques dealer already dead after seeing four robbers flee the victim’s home.
Graham Richardson, 27, told the jury he was too shocked to do anything after the four hooded men came running from the cottage in Full Sutton with bags of loot.
He claimed he “panicked” and ran with the gang to their getaway car parked in a nearby layby where he was given one of the bags and told to say nothing.
It was a couple of days later - on January 2 this year - that he returned to the cottage, thinking 56-year-old Mr Battle had gone away to recover from being robbed.
He said: “I intended to burgle Peter’s house on my own, thinking he would be away for the week.”
He came first during the afternoon but “chickened out” and just drove past the house, only to return after dark, Teesside Crown Court heard.
There was a light on in the house but he could not really see through the porch. He tried the door handle, and it was unlocked, he claimed.
He found a sheet had been hung over the door as he pushed it open and went in, he said, adding: “I shouted out Peter’s name. There was no reply. As I started walking through the property I could see blood splatter on the walls and some items.
“I noticed a lump on the floor which turned out to be Peter.”
The body was covered in what he thought was a sheet. When he lifted one end up he could see part of Mr Battle’s head.
He continued: “I didn’t know what to do. I was about to run off but decided to check he was still alive.
“His feet were sticking out the bottom. I touched the back of my finger to his ankle which was freezing cold.
“I just had to get out. I just ran.”
He jumped in his car to drive back to Malton but pulled over half way to smoke some heroin in a lay-by.
“All I could think of was it was because of the robbery - and I was partly to blame.”
Earlier, he told the jury he had robbed another gold collector in York with two other men, one of whom was Darren Archer, he claimed.
He had been asked to supply names of other potential victims and subsequently agreed to set up Mr Battle.
It was alleged Archer would handle the robbery and Richardson would turn up later at the house feigning sympathy to avoid any suspicion he had been involved.
Richardson told the jury he recognised Archer as one of the four robbers leaving the house on New Year’s Eve.
He claimed he never dreamed Mr Battle would be harmed during the robbery because he thought only threats would be needed.
He admitted returning twice more to the unlocked cottage to steal.
When he finally locked the door behind him and threw the key away Mr Battle had been dead for three and a half weeks. But still he did not inform the police.
He told the jury: “I was just taking too much heroin at the time.
“I wish I had done now.”
Richardson, of Riverside View, Norton, denies murder.
The trial continues.