Michael Philips murder trial: Men acted like 'animals' during Hartlepool attack, court hears

The men accused of murdering Hartlepool man Michael Phillips were like ‘animals’, a court has been told.

Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 6:00 am

Mr Phillips died at an address in the town’s Rydal Street on Monday, June 10, 2019 following a disturbance.

Seven men have denied murdering the Hartlepool man and their trial is underway at Teesside Crown Court, with the hearing expected to last for up to five weeks.

The defendants are Lee Darby, 32, of Ridley Court; Neil Elliott, 44, of Briarfield Close; Gary Jackson, 31, of The Darlings, Hart Village; John Musgrave, 54, of Wordsworth Avenue; Sean Musgrave, 30, also of Wordsworth Avenue; Anthony Small, 40, of Rydal Street and Craig Thorpe, 36, of Young Street.

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Michael Philips died after sustaining serious injuries.

The housemate of 39-year-old Mr Phillips, Lee Hardwell, gave evidence of what he saw.

He said the men barged into the house and started to attack Mr Phillips before making them both watch some CCTV footage on a laptop, which showed two men, and there was mention of a blue coat.

Mr Hardwell said when he and Mr Phillips said they didn’t know who was on the video and they saw Mr Phillips also had a blue coat, the group launched into another attack on his friend.

Police in Rydal Street as Cleveland Police launched a murder inquiry into the death of Michael Phillips.

He said: “They turned into animals when they saw it was a blue coat.

He said: "They started attacking, they slammed him and pushed him towards the stairs, they slammed him into the fishtank and repeatedly kicked and stamped on him.

"He didn't stand a chance, they all beat him - every one of them.

"You could hear the air leaving his lungs they were hitting him that hard. All over his head and torso."

Mr Hardwell said the men used coshes and a knuckle duster and he himself got hit around the side of his head and his face.

The court was told by Mr Hardwell that during the incident the gang also attacked their elderly dog, Dillon, who was barking and trying to attack them.

He said: "They kicked him a few times and grabbed him by the collar and his tail, someone opened the door and they launched him through the door.

"They knew what they were doing.

"They were prepared for every eventuality, it was planned."

Mr Hardwell said he was distraught by what happened to Mr Phillips, who he said was his best friend.

Darby and Elliott, who is a director of Hartlepool firm Niramax, also deny burglary, while Elliott is accused of assault occasioning actual bodily harm against another man.

The trial continues.