Tuesday, 18 Jan 2022

Student was 'beaten, stripped naked and thrown off balcony' during squat party

A student was beaten unconscious, stripped naked and thrown from a balcony while celebrating New Year’s Eve at a Brighton squat, a court has heard.

Four men have gone on trial charged with the murder of William Henham, known as Billy, whose body was eventually found in a disused hotel building on January 2, 2020.

Just hours before he was allegedly killed, the 24-year-old had been seen ‘singing, dancing and smiling’ in a Brighton nightclub.

But, while continuing the party at the North Street building, he was hit with part of a stairwell and suffered 11 broken ribs, extensive bruising and a brain injury.

His injuries were consistent with being punched, kicked and stamped on and the prosecution allege he was subjected to a ‘sustained and significant’ assault.

Despite being thrown 11ft off a roof terrace, a jury at Maidstone Crown Court, Kent, heard he could have been alive for up to an hour after the violent attack.

Police found Billy’s lifeless naked body had been doused in bleach and he had disinfectant in his hair as they accused his alleged killers of trying to cover their tracks.

Gregory Hawley, 28, Lamech Gordon-Carew, 20, Dushane Meikle, 27, and Alize Spence, 18, have denied murdering the student, who lived with his parents in Henfield, West Sussex.

Billy, who was studying at Ravensbourne University in south east London, had spent Christmas with his family but wanted to see in the New Year in a ‘lively atmosphere’, prosecutors told the jury.

He was last seen on CCTV outside an off-licence opposite the squatted building at around 4.30am on New Year’s Day.

Phillip Mallia, another person who was staying in the building at the time, testified that he’d heard screams from ‘someone in pain’ coming from inside a room before the door opened and he was told by a man to ‘F*** off’.

Mr Mallia, 28, described how a few hours later he saw Hawley, said to have been in charge of the squat, with the bleach bottle and cloth just a few feet from the same room.

‘Gregory said “I’ve got to clean up some blood because someone got seriously hurt last night”. He was on his way to the torture chamber, the room where I heard the screaming,’ Mr Mallia said.

The court heard how the group moved to a second squat that same day and Mr Mallia said he heard some of the defendants continuing to ‘brag’ about what they’d done.

Two deleted photos of Billy’s body – one partially clothed and one naked – were later found on Meikle’s phone.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor James Mulholland QC told the jury that although the motive for Mr Henham’s alleged murder was ‘unclear’, all four defendants had ‘participated in the joint attack.’

Although experts were said to have later linked the defendants to the alleged murder through their DNA, fingerprints, bloodstained clothing and trainer marks, Mr Mulholland told the jury they had shown ‘a significant degree of forensic awareness’ in their efforts to cover their tracks.

As well as allegedly stripping Mr Henham of his clothes, of which only his trainers were found, and cleaning his body, areas of bloodstaining appeared to have been diluted, the court was told.

The trial is expected to last six weeks.

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