Sunday, 3 Mar 2024

Man who shot victim and poured acid on him said he ‘took vigilante route’

A drug dealer accused of shooting a father of two before pouring acid over him as he lay dying has told a court he and his girlfriend decided to “go down the vigilante route” after she told him she had been raped.

Michael Hillier, 39, denies the murder of Liam Smith, 38, but has admitted the manslaughter of the electrician, who was lured from his home in Wigan, Greater Manchester, on November 24 last year, gunned down and doused with sulphuric acid.

Hillier’s girlfriend Rachel Fulstow, 37, who the court heard met Mr Smith on a Tinder date in 2019, denies murder and perverting the course of justice.

Giving evidence at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester on Monday, Hillier said he met Fulstow on dating app Hinge in November 2020 and became “completely besotted” with her.

Hillier, who told the jury he was “concerned in the production and distribution of a large-scale cannabis operation”, said his partner “confided” in him in January last year that she had been “graphically raped” by Mr Smith at a hotel.

He said he felt strongly that “a crime as heinous as rape” should be reported to the police, but Fulstow insisted she would not be believed.

He said: “We decided jointly between the two of us that we would deal with the matter ourselves and seek justice ourselves and go down the vigilante route.

“It’s not surprising given only 1.6 percent of all reported rapes make it to court.”

Hillier said he asked her to tell him all the details of the incident if he was to carry out an attack on Mr Smith.

He told the court: “I need to know every nitty gritty bit of detail so the attack can be justified.”

Hillier, of Ecclesall Road, Sheffield, said his friends knew someone had “tasked” him with “harming a rapist”, although they did not all know Fulstow was involved.

He described a friend trying to talk him out of it on one occasion, when Fulstow was also present.

He said: “Rachel said, I can’t remember the exact words, but she was saying she understands why I was doing it, fully supports me, and what I was doing was a just and noble cause.”

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Fulstow, of Andrew Drive, York, has told the court she met Mr Smith in September 2019 after they connected through dating app Tinder.

She said they had sex, which she told the court was not consensual but she did not regard it as a rape.

She denies persuading her partner to carry out the attack.

Hillier, with a bald head and beard, stared towards Fulstow in the dock as he took the oath at the start of his evidence.

He told the jury he had struggled with mental health issues and was addicted to diazepam and sleeping tablets. The trial continues.

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