South Tyneside businessman denies murdering Sunderland employee

A garage worker died 16 days after his boss "choked the life from him" then dumped him in a shallow grave at a remote seaside beauty spot, murder jurors have heard.

The court heard a row between the pair broke out during a visit to Creswell Towers holiday park.
The court heard a row between the pair broke out during a visit to Creswell Towers holiday park.

Darren Bonner's naked body was found in woodland, behind a dry-stone wall, on Shore Road, Northumberland, with irreversible brain damage that led to his death last July.

Newcastle Crown Court heard Richard Spottiswood, who ran a garage business Mr Bonner worked at, believed he had been "double crossed" by the 24-year-old,

from Sunderland, and deliberately choked him during a confrontation.

Spottiswood, 34, of Canterbury Way, Jarrow, denies murder and is being tried by a jury.

Prosecutor Tim Roberts told the court a passer-by had heard "snoring and moaning" as he walked past the undergrowth at Shore Road, near Cresswell Caravan Park, Northumberland, in the early morning on July 10 last year and alerted the police.

Officers who arrived at the scene heard a similar sound and climbed concrete boulders in a gap of the dry-stone wall to investigate.

Mr Roberts told the court: "In the wood behind the wall they came upon a naked man, lying in an open, dug out, shallow grave in the earth.

"He was curled up in the fetal position, moaning and shivering.

"Although he was actually breathing, he was unresponsive to the officers attempts to rouse him."

The court heard Mr Bonner was taken to hospital, where he survived for 16 days but never regained consciousness.

He died because his brain had been starved of blood an oxygen, which led to extensive brain damage, jurors heard.

Mr Bonner also had marks on his back, which Mr Roberts said was "at least 12 blows from a rod-shaped weapon".

Jurors have heard in the days before he was found injured, Mr Bonner had told his ex-girlfriend he had fallen out with "Spotty", who he said was "going to do me in".

The woman told police Mr Bonner had worked for Spottiswood at his garage and that the men also tended cannabis farms together.

The court heard on the weekend before he was found fatally injured that Mr Bonner had joined Spottiswood on a family holiday at Creswell Towers holiday park.

Prosecutors say he was dumped in the shallow grave, from the back of Spottiswood's white van, shortly before he was found.

Spottiswood told police it was during the mini-break that the hole had been dug for the men to bury firearms.

But the court heard an argument had broken out while they were there because he was suspicious Mr Bonner had "betrayed him to a rival drug dealer".

He claimed during the course of the exchange, Mr Bonner had confessed he had revealed the location of a cannabis crop to the rival, who had gone on to steal it.

Spottiswood said during the row that Mr Bonner had grabbed for the bag of guns and so he got him in a a headlock during a struggle, in self defence.

He said he had removed Mr Bonner's clothes in "panic".

Mr Roberts said prosecutors reject the suggestion of self defence.

He told jurors: "He knew exactly what he was doing, there and then he caused the irreversible brain damage which led to death.

"Mr Spottiswood, the prosecution contend, wasn't acting in reasonable and necessary self defence. He was deliberately choking the life from someone he trusted but had double crossed him."

The trial continues.