Nail salon worker may have taken "one breath" before dying in blazing car

Quyen Ngoc Nguyen
Quyen Ngoc Nguyen

A murder victim may have taken "one breath" before she perished in her blazing car, jurors have heard.

Stephen Unwin and William McFall are accused of keeping Quyen Nguyen captive at a house, where prosecutors claim she was "raped and incapacitated" before she and her Audi A4 were dumped and set on fire at a dirt track in Shiney Row.

Home Office pathologist Dr Mark Egan told Newcastle Crown Court he performed a post mortem on the 28-year-old's remains, which were badly damaged by fire.

The doctor told jurors the presence of soot in the victim's windpipe indicated that she may have been alive during the initial stages of the blaze.

He told the court: "I think it is likely that in the car she had at least one breath."

Dr Egan said there was no evidence of physical injuries to the remains, which had been badly effected by the fire, and that no alcohol or drugs were found in the blood stream.

The doctor told jurors: "The information derived from the post mortem was severely limited by the fact the effects of fire.

"The body was an adult Asian female of South Asian origin.

"There was no natural disease to cause or accelerate death and post mortem examination showed extensive effects of fire with mixed depth burns involving the whole of the body and partial consumption of tissues.

"Examination of tissues internally showed evidence to suggest the deceased was alive during progress of the fire."

The doctor said there was no evidence of traumatic injury within the deep tissues of the body and no signs of bruising or restraint.

Samples of tissue were taken and examined under a microscope during the post mortem procedure.

Dr Egan added: "It suggests the deceased was alive during the progress of the fire and has died of the effect of fire but does not establish it as a definite cause of death."

The court has heard during her "horror" ordeal, the victim, a nail salon worker, who was known as Anna, had been ordered to hand over her bank details while being subjected to physical and sexual violence.

Miss Nguyen's remains, which could only be identified by dental records, were found when emergency services were called to a dirt track at Success Road in Shiney Row, near Sunderland, after reports of a fire last August.

Unwin, 40, of St. Oswald's Terrace, Houghton, and McFall, 51, who is originally from Northern Ireland but now of Waterloo Road, Blackpool, both deny her murder and rape.

The trial continues.