Jail terms for couple who tampered with CCTV system as John Littlewood's killer left their home

A couple who tampered CCTV as John Littlewood’s killer left their home to carry out his attack have been jailed for their part in frustrating the investigation into his brutal death.

Monday, 7th June 2021, 3:45 pm

The 36-year-old dad was found dead at his home in Third Street, Blackhall Colliery, on Tuesday, July 30, 2019, having been murdered by his friend Marty Bates, 31, in the early hours of Friday, July 26.

Now a former couple who also claimed to be pals of Mr Littlewood, known as John D, have been sentenced for their part in trying to destroy evidence in the case.

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Police cordoned off John Littlewood's home as investigations began into his death in July 2019.

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Donna Balfour, 36, denied perverting the course of justice between Friday, July 26, and Friday, August 2, 2019, but pleaded guilty days into her trial, leading a new jury to be sworn in at Teesside Crown Court.

James Nathan Riley, 31, pleaded guilty to witness intimidation, assault occasioning actual bodily harm against Mr Littlewood the night before the killing, and doing an act to pervert the course of justice.

The court heard they turned off CCTV at their Ninth Street home as Bates left for Third Street and then later tried to delete all footage.

James Nathan Riley and Donna Balfour.

An expert managed to recover it for Durham Constabulary, while officers also managed to piece together Bates’ movements using CCTV from the village, tracing his walk back home following the fatal attack.

Today, Monday, June 7, Balfour was jailed for 29 months, while Riley was jailed for three years and six months, with their time already spent in custody to be taken off those terms.

Both had faced charges of murder initially, with Judge Paul Watson QC formally entering not guilty pleas during the hearing.

Marty Bates, 31, was jailed for a minimum of 24 years for the murder of John Littlewood.

Gregory Bull QC, for Riley, said he was a man of “low intelligence and poor education” who reacted badly to the situation, having been pushed into acting by Bates.

He said Bates had told him the “deceased was saying he was one of the killers of James Bulger, living in this area under a false ID” which was given some “credence” by the fact he spoke with a heavy Liverpool accent.

Mr Bull said Riley, who has 19 convictions for 29 offences, had found the love of his life in Balfour, but that is no longer reciprocated.

The family of John Littlewood, known as John D, said their lives had been destroyed by his killing.

He said Riley felt he had lost everything and could not see the daughter Balfour gave birth to while on remand.

In a letter to the court, he apologised said he would “regret my decision for the rest of life” adding he hoped Mr Littlewood’s family had some “closure from this horrendous ordeal.”

Richard Wright QC, prosecuting, described Riley’s attack on Mr Littlewood as a “roundhouse kick”, with both the defendant and Bates attacking him over “lies” their victim had said about them.

Mr Wright explained the incident of witness intimidation related to threats to kill Mr Littlewood’s neighbour if she told police they had been at the house with Bates and his partner days after the murder and as they found the body.

Lisa Wilding QC, for Balfour, now of Neasham Road, Darlington, said she was facing a fight in another court to keep her daughter, having faced difficult conditions while in prison and restrictions since being released on bail.

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