Kieran Williams murder trial: Sunderland teenager's body was found with multiple stab wounds in grave at disused industrial site, court told

A teenager's decomposing body was found with multiple stab wounds and buried in a "grave" at a disused industrial estate more than six weeks after he went missing, murder jurors have heard.

Kieran Williams, 18, was last seen on April 18, 2022, when he visited his mother's home in Sunderland, and he was never heard from again.

Newcastle Crown Court heard on May 31 a grave, which had been concealed with sticks, leaves, litter and branches was found and Kieran's body was discovered buried inside

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The burial site was in a secluded, wooded area at a former industrial estate near the Northern Spire bridge in the city and was surrounded by trees.

Kieran Williams.

Ben Cook, 19, of Fordfield Road, and Louis Hackett, 20, of Fordenbridge Square, both Sunderland, both deny Kieran's murder and are being tried by a jury at the crown court.

Prosecutors claim the teen was killed in a "planned attack" by the pair, who were "in it together" and that they took steps to conceal their involvement, which included sending messages to Kieran's phone, after he was killed, asking where he was.

It is claimed both alleged killers visited the burial site in the days after the murder, jurors have heard.

David Lamb KC told the court Kieran had suffered "at least 20" stab wounds to his chest, torso, neck and had injuries to his hands, arms, legs and feet, which may have been from trying to protect himself.

The court heard an attempt had been made to set his body on fire when he was in the grave.

Mr Lamb said Kieran's body was examined by a pathologist and told the court: "In his professional opinion, death occurred in the course of a prolonged and sustained attack, given the number of injuries and their locations."

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Jurors heard Kieran's aorta, a vital artery, his liver and spine had been damaged during the attack.

Mr Lamb said Kieran's body had not suffered any fire damage but he added: "It is clear an attempt had been made to set fire to him as there was fire damage to Kieran's clothing.

"The fire expert's view is Kieran's body had been set fire to in the grave itself."

The court heard a forensic archaeologist provided evidence that the average depth of a "clandestine" grave in the UK was around 0.4m, whereas Kieran was buried at a depth of 0.75m.

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Jurors heard a shovel, fork and spade were found near the burial site and there was spade marks in the grave soil.

Mr Lamb told jurors of the findings from the forensic archaeologist.

He said: "The significance of that fact is the grave did not resemble a hurriedly dug or hurriedly constructed grave or hole in the ground.

"She cannot say with certainty the grave was dug before Kieran Williams was killed. Her findings, together with the location of the grave may indicate a degree of pre-planning, in view of the fact it was near several accessories, in a secluded area, surrounded by trees."

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The court heard Hackett had been arrested and questioned on suspicion of Kieran's kidnap before his body was found.

Hackett told police Kieran was "like a brother" and claimed during questioning he had not seen him since he went missing, jurors heard.

The court heard after Kieran's body was discovered, Hackett was arrested again and told his finger prints were found in the clay of the grave and within the grave itself.

Mr Lamb said Hackett later gave detectives a prepared statement and told the court: "He said he hadn't killed Kieran Williams but that he had met Kieran Williams on April 18 last year and attended the area where the body was later discovered.

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"He said once they reached the area of the grave an argument developed between Ben Cook and Kieran Williams, in the course of which Ben Cook produced a knife and stabbed Kieran Williams numerous times.

"He said he tried to pull Ben Cook off Kieran but Kieran collapsed.

"He said Ben Cook asked him to help him, as he feared Kieran was dead, he said he wasn't thinking straight so he helped Ben Cook to bury Kieran.

"He explained earlier lies, saying he was covering for Ben Cook and said he was sorry."

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Cook, who had also previously denied having any knowledge of what happened to Kieran, was re-arrested after Hackett's allegations were made.

Mr Lamb told jurors a summary of Cook’s statement to police.

He said: "Ben Cook gave a statement and said they went to the area of the grave, where the grave was dug, in order to smoke cannabis.

"He said Louis Hackett attacked Kieran Williams and he had seen Louis Hackett stab Kieran Williams multiple times.

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"Once Kieran was dead, Cook said Hackett threatened him with the knife used to kill Kieran with and told him to move the body.

"Ben Cook said Louis Hackett had set fire to Kieran's body then covered it with leaves and shrubbery and the knife was thrown in the river."

Mr Lamb said each of them has thrown his co-accused "under the bus" in a bid to get out of their own involvement but that they were "in it together".

Kieran Williams spent the day at his mum's house on April 18 which was the last time he was heard from.His mum Tracey Williams told police afterwards that her son lived elsewhere but would visit her daily, for a bath and some food.Ms Williams said on April 18 Kieran had visited her as normal and he was still at the house when she left to visit a restaurant with others.She said after she left the house, she had to briefly pop back inside as she had forgot her purse.Ms Williams said in a statement: "As I left the house Kieran was lying on the sofa in the living room, watching music videos on TV.

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"Kieran didn't tell me what his plans were for the rest of the night but we did have conversation about me bringing some food home for him from the restaurant.

"That's the last time I ever saw or heard from Kieran."

Ms Williams said when she got back from the restaurant Kieran had left the house.

She added: "Over the next few days I sent Facebook messenger messages to Kieran's phone, asking him to get in contact and telling him I was worried about him.

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"They remained unread and I received no messages from him."The trial continues.