KIERAN WILLIAMS TRIAL: Ben Cook and Louis Hackett cleared of murder but Hackett guilty of manslaughter
Two pals accused of killing a friend who was found stabbed and buried in a clandestine grave six weeks after he was reported missing have been cleared ofmurder but one faces jail for manslaughter.
Ben Cook and Louis Hackett have been on trial accused of repeatedly stabbing 18-year-old Kieran Williams and burying him at a disused industrial estate.
Today, after deliberating for more than a day, jurors at Newcastle Crown Court cleared Cook of murder and manslaughter.
Hackett, whose fingerprints were in the clay of the grave, was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter and will be sentenced by trial judge Mr Justice Jay at a later date.
The accused men had both blamed each other for the killing during the trial.
Kieran's decomposing body was found in a makeshift burial plot, concealed with sticks, leaves, litter and branches, at a secluded spot near the Northern Spire bridge in Sunderland on June 2 last year.
The teenager had last been seen on April 18, when he visited his mother's home in the city and he was never heard from again.
His friends Cook, 19, of Fordfield Road, and Hackett, 20, of Fordenbridge Square, both Sunderland, both denied Kieran's murder but both admitted being atthe scene when he was killed.
Prosecutor 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.
The court heard an attempt had been made to set his body on fire when he was in the grave.
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."
Jurors heard Kieran spent April 18 at his mum's house, which was the last day he was seen.
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, which was read during the trial: "As I left the house Kieran was lying on the sofa in the living room, watching music videos on TV.
"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.
"They remained unread and I received no messages from him."