Police officer describes shock at finding 'man in grave' covered in tree roots making 'snoring noises'

Picture by Jane Coltman
Picture by Jane Coltman

A police officer has described the shocking moment she found a living victim lying in a woodland shallow grave.

Darren Bonner was naked, injured and unresponsive when police officer Victoria Kelly found him hidden in an open, dug out hole hidden among undergrowth behind a roadside dry stone wall at a Northumberland beauty spot.

His body had been covered with tree roots.

Jurors at Newcastle Crown Court have heard the tragic 24-year-old, from Sunderland, had been attacked by killer couple Richard Spottiswood and Lucy
Burn during a caravan park holiday at nearby Creswell Towers before being left dying in the freshly dug grave.

Mr Bonner, who medics believed had been strangled and hit at least 12 times with a rod shaped weapon, died in hospital 16 days after he was discovered last July.

Spottiswood, 34, of Canterbury Way, Jarrow, and Burn, 29, of Burns Close, South Shields, both deny murder.

The court has heard police were called to the grave scene at Shore Road on the Northumberland coast by a walker who had heard "snoring" type noises as he
passed.

The retired man said he decided to call the police after he walked by the same spot twice and heard the noise but had been unable to identify where it had come from.

He told jurors: "There was enough doubt in my mind that someone perhaps needed help so I decided to phone the police."

Police officer Kelly told jurors she and a male colleague arrived at the scene that morning and immediately identified the same snoring type sound.

The officer said: "As soon as we got out of the car we could hear the noise. It sounded loud, like snoring, continuous."

The officer said she and her colleague climbed over the roadside dry stone wall and started searching the undergrowth, heading towards the direction that the noise was coming from, when they saw the "male in a grave".

She told the court: "We both were shocked and said it looked like a grave, a dug out grave."

The officer said the male had "tree roots over the torso" and was badly injured.


She added: "We straight away tried to communicate with the gentleman, we straight away tried to talk with him.

"He was still making the loud snoring noises.

"It was clear to us he was badly injured in some way but we didn't know how."

The officer said when she and her colleague tried to move the stricken man he resisted and they noticed he had a mark to his neck.

The police then took the decision to leave the injured man where he was until the paramedics arrived, in case moving him would cause more harm or risk, and they covered him in a foil blanked from their First Aid kit.

Officer Kelly said: "He did seem to open his eyes at one point and was breathing.

"We decided to monitor him closely before the paramedics arrived.

"We covered him in the foil blanket and continued to talk to him and try and get something back from him.

"We tried to reassure him, let him know we were there to help him.

"We tried to move him initially but it was clear he did not want to be moved."

The officer said paramedics arrived at the scene within minutes and the injured man was taken away by ambulance to hospital.

Spottiswood and Burn deny murder.

The trial continues.


You can read the full report from yesterday's court proceedings here.