Body found in shallow grave had 32 separate sites of injury, court told

A man found dying in a shallow grave at a remote beauty spot had 32 separate sites of injury on his body, murder jurors have heard.

Thursday, 21st June 2018, 2:16 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th June 2018, 11:10 am
Cresswell Caravan Park, Northumberland.
Cresswell Caravan Park, Northumberland.

Darren Bonner was naked and unresponsive when police found him in a freshly dug hole, hidden behind a dry-stone wall in Northumberland in July last year, after being alerted by a passer-by about suspicious noises.

Prosecutors claim garage boss Richard Spottiswood "choked the life from" the 24-year-old, who was his employee, then dumped him in the woodland grave because he believed he had "double crossed" him to a drugs rival.

Mr Bonner, from Sunderland, died in hospital 16 days after his fatally-injured body was found, without ever regaining consciousness.

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Spottiswood, 34, of Canterbury Way, Jarrow, denies murder and is being tried by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court.

Home Office pathologist Dr Mark Egan examined Mr Bonner's body in hospital in Cramlington, Northumberland, on the day he was found.

He told jurors: "There were a relatively large number of injuries.

"I labelled 32 separate injuries."

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Dr Egan told the court the injuries were spread over Mr Bonner's head, neck, torso and limbs and consisted of bruising, abrasions and grazes.

The court heard Mr Bonner's injuries included what appeared to be marks from a "rod-shaped weapon" on his back and had injuries to his neck, which were consistent with pressure being applied to it.

Dr Egan had examined Mr Bonner's body again, after his death on July 26 and he said by that time many of his bruises, grazes and abrasions had healed or partly healed.

The pathologist said he also found evidence of deep vein thrombosis, which was a "consequence of the fatal assault" and pneumonia, which was caused by Mr Bonner being "traumatised, unconscious and in hospital".

Dr Egan said it was lack of blood and oxygen to the brain that ultimately killed Mr Bonner.

The doctor told jurors: "The brain had been deprived of blood and oxygen, which had ultimately brought about his death, albeit a number of days after it had occurred."

Spottiswood told detectives during questioning that the hole had been dug for him and Mr Bonner, who had joined his boss on a family holiday at a caravan park at Creswell, Northumberland, that weekend, to bury firearms.

He claimed an argument had broken out while they were there because he was suspicious Mr Bonner had "betrayed him to a rival drug dealer".

He said during the course of the exchange, Mr Bonner had confessed he had revealed the location of a cannabis crop to the rival, who had gone on to steal it.

Spottiswood said during the row, Mr Bonner had grabbed for the bag of guns and so he got him in a a headlock during a struggle, in self defence.

He said he had removed Mr Bonner's clothes in "panic".

Prosecutor Tim Robert QC told jurors the suggestion of self defence is rejected.

He told the court: "He knew exactly what he was doing, there and then he caused the irreversible brain damage which led to death.

"Mr Spottiswood, the prosecution contend, wasn't acting in reasonable and necessary self defence. He was deliberately choking the life from someone he trusted but had double crossed him."

The trial continues.