Teen accused of murdering teaching assistant 'offered money to move body'
A teenager accused of murdering a teaching assistant said he was offered money by a stranger to move her body.
Mum-of-two Lindsay Birbeck was found dead in a shallow grave at the back of Accrington Cemetery, Lancashire, on August 24 last year. The 47-year-old had gone missing 12 days earlier after leaving her home to go for a walk to an area of woodland known as the Coppice, Preston Crown Court was told.
It is alleged the 17-year-old defendant – who cannot be identified for legal reasons – killed Mrs Birbeck shortly after she entered the Coppice and concealed her body in a blue wheelie bin which he dragged across to the cemetery five days later.
The court heard how the boy, then aged 16, voluntarily attended a police station with family members following an appeal.
In a prepared statement, he admitted moving the bin and burying the body but said he was not involved in Mrs Birbeck’s death.
He said he was walking alone in the area when he was approached by a stranger who promised him ‘a lot of money’ if he disposed of a body.
He stated: ‘He showed me where the body was and he went away straight away, leaving me to ‘get rid of the body’.
‘I have not met this man before. I have not met him since, nor have I had any contact with him. He has not paid me any money. He told me that he would leave the money for me near where the body had been at first once everything was clear.
‘I cannot describe the man other than to say he was white, male, spoke English. I could not see his face well as he was covering it with his hood. I am not sure of his height, build or age.’
The youth has admitted assisting an offender but Prosecutor David McLachlan QC told the jury the Crown did not accept that plea.
Mr McLachlan said: ‘Far from it being a case of (the youth) assisting and helping a mystery man, the prosecution case is he is in fact the mystery man and he is guilty of murder.
‘A young man who went to exceptional lengths to move Mrs Birbeck’s body and also did a very good job of hiding her body in a shallow grave in the cemetery. Such a good job that the police and the public – who searched in vast numbers – were not able to find her body until 12 days after she had gone missing.’
Mrs Birbeck was identified through dental records and a post-mortem examination concluded the cause of death was neck injuries.
Severe compressive force appeared to have been used, according to a Home Office pathologist, which could have been done in several ways including through stamping, kicking or kneeling on the front of the neck.
The court also heard another walker, Zoe Braithwaite, entered The Coppice on the day Mrs Birbeck went missing and noticed a lone male walking ‘very slowly’ in the same direction on a parallel path.
She said she had been ‘instantly wary’ as she normally only encountered ‘dog walkers and families’ in the area.
Mrs Braithwaite said she had taken a different route to avoid meeting the male, but then spotted him about 160ft (50m) away from her.
‘As I glanced over my shoulder it looked as if he had pulled up and had been running,’ she said.
‘At that point I was seriously concerned.’
She said she had not got close enough to see the person’s face, but described him as being about 20 to 25 years old, about 6ft (1.83m) in height and wearing a grey hooded top and grey tracksuit trousers.
The teenager denies murder and manslaughter.
The trial continues.
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