'Sunderland man murdered by Jarrow boss and South Shields woman after drugs row,' hears trial

The murder trial is taking place at Newcastle Crown Court.
The murder trial is taking place at Newcastle Crown Court.

A killer couple attacked a man during a family caravan holiday and dumped his body in a shallow grave, murder jurors have heard.

Darren Bonner was alive but naked, injured and unresponsive when police found him hidden in an open, dug out hole hidden amongst undergrowth behind a roadside dry stone wall at a beauty spot.

The officers had been alerted to the shocking scene by a walker who had heard snoring and moaning noises as he walked past the site at around 8am on July 10 last year.

The stricken man was "curled up in the fetal position, moaning and apparently shivering" and tried to pull away when officers attempted to rouse or move him.

The tragic 24-year-old, from Sunderland, who doctors believed had been strangled and hit at least 12 times with a rod shaped weapon, died in hospital 16 days later.

Prosecutors claim Richard Spottiswood, 34, of Canterbury Way, Jarrow, and Lucy Burn, 29, of Burns Close, South Shields, carried out the killing at a caravan in Dale View, at Creswell Towers holiday park, in Northumberland, before dumping him in the nearby open grave at Shore Road.

The couple both deny murder and are being tried by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court.

Jurors have heard the pair admitted Mr Bonner had joined them on the weekend break but claimed he had simply gone when they woke up on July 10.

During later accounts of what happened, Burns claimed she had heard a furious row between the men while she was asleep but played no part in it.

Spottiswood claimed he had taken Mr Bonner in a headlock at the grave site during a row which erupted about drugs while they were in the woodland burying stolen firearms.

Prosecuctor Tim Roberts told the court Mr Bonner had been employed by Spottiswood for £25-per-day at his garage business and the men were involved in producing cannabis farms together.

It is claimed the violence flared over claims Mr Bonner had "betrayed" his boss and had been "spying" on the couple, who had gone out of their way to help him, for an arch drugs rival.

Mr Roberts told the court: "Richard Spottiswood choked Darren Bonner with an arm lock. He held, within the moment, Darren Bonner's life under the flex of his bicep and he applied force, deliberately and progressively, starving the brain of oxygen.

"He knew exactly what he was doing.

"He there and then caused irreversible brain damage which led to death."

Mr Roberts said the marks found on Mr Bonner's back were significant.

He said to jurors; "While he was incapacitated in a choke hold that was going to lead to his death, was his back exposed to attack by Lucy Burn in that caravan or was she sleeping peacefully, quite oblivious to a man being choked to death a few metres away."

Prosecutors claim the couple used a large transit, which was a former police riot vehicle that had been painted white, to transport and dump Mr Bonner after the murderous attack.

Mr Roberts said: "The prosecution argue they were in this together.

"Mr Bonner had betrayed them both and when they thought he was dead they remained committed to each other and the joint lies they hoped would hide their crime.

"The prosecution case is each one is guilty of murder."

Both deny murder.

The trial continues.