Michael Phillips murder: Lee Darby, Neil Elliott and Anthony Small to be sentenced over Hartlepool man's death on Thursday

Three Hartlepool men convicted for their part in the death of Michael Phillips will learn their fate at Teesside Crown Court on Wednesday, March 4.

By Sue Kirby, Poppy Kennedy
Thursday, 5th March 2020, 10:15 am

Lee Darby, 32, of Ridley Court, was convicted of Mr Phillips’ murder on Tuesday, March 3. Neil Elliott, 44, of Briarfields Close and Anthony Small, 40, of Rydal Street were cleared of murder but found guilty of manslaughter at the same trial.

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They will be sentenced today from 2pm by the Honourable Mr Justice Jacobs. Scroll down for updates.

From left, Lee Darby, Anthony Small and Neil Elliott and, inset, Michael Phillips.

Three men to be sentenced for killing Michael Phillips

Last updated: Thursday, 05 March, 2020, 13:26

  • Michael Phillips, 39, was beaten to death in a savage attack at his home address in Rydal Street, Hartlepool.
  • Lee Darby was found guilty of murder
  • Neil Elliott and Anthony Small were found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter
  • Four other defendants were cleared of both murder and manslaughter
  • Mr Justice Jacobs is due to sentence Darby, Elliott and Small at Teesside Crown Court at 2pm on Wednesday, March 4.

1.30pm: 'His family had the trauma of hearing these details during the trial'

Deputy Senior Investigating Officer Det Sgt Matthew Waterfield added: "I welcome the verdicts and hope this brings a degree of comfort to Michael Phillip’s family who have shown real dignity and courage during this lengthy trial.  I wish them all the best as they try to move forwards with their lives.

"Michael was the victim of an unprovoked brutal and sustained attack where he suffered a sickening number of serious injuries, which sadly proved fatal.  His family had the trauma of hearing these details during the trial - which must have been unbearable for them.

"Understandably because of the reputation of some of the defendants, the local community was frightened and many people were just too afraid to come forward with information.

"The investigation was always going to be complex because of the number of defendants and the lengths they went to to conceal evidence, however our dedicated team of detectives was determined to achieve justice for Mr Phillips and his family and reassure the community that no one is above the law.

"This result demonstrates that police and the wider criminal justice system will always work tirelessly to bring to justice anyone who believes they can take the law into their own hands.

"The men found guilty can now expect to spend a lengthy period behind bars."

12.30pm: 'This has been a very challenging investigation'

DS Matthew Waterfield

DS Matthew Waterfield said: "I welcome today's sentences and the verdicts from the jury. 

"This has been a very challenging investigation in terms the victim sustained a horrific attack, an unprovoked attack, in his own home. 

"It's been a very complex investigation due to the amount of defendants and also with their reputations in the community. 

"There's been a lot of people that have been too frightened to speak to us and on behalf of the family I would like to thank the witnesses that have come forward and provided information." 

12.20pm: DS Matthew Waterfield gives police statement following sentencing

11.50am: Judge sums up reasoning behind Anthony Small's 12-year sentence

Mr Justice Jacobs said he has no doubt the he knew there was a risk of serious harm and that he knew Darby had a propensity to violence.

He said he played a critical part in the death of Mr Phillips by getting them into the house.

The judge said it was a group attack and he is sure Darby did not act alone.

He said: "I accept your responsibility was not as great as Mr Elliott's."

However, he said he did not detect any real remorse on Small's part.

He has sentenced Small to 12 years in prison and said he will serve half in custody and the rest on licence.

11.46am: Judge explains Neil Elliott's 15-year sentence

Mr Justice Jacobs said he is sure his intention that day was that if he found those responsible for the burglary, serious violence would be inflicted upon them.

He said: "I am sure you remained angry during the day and into the evening."

He said he intention of violence was why he took Lee Darby with him and he knew more about Lee Darby than he admitted in evidence.

Mr Justice Jacobs said it should have been obvious of a high risk of the infliction of grievous bodily harm.

In deciding the sentence he is taking into account his previous good character and charitable work.

The judge said none of these actions would have happened if it not been for him, all of it resulted from his decision to take the law into his own hands.

He has sentenced Elliott to 15 years in prison for the manslaughter of Michael Phillips and six-month in prison, to serve concurrently, for the assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

11.41am: Anthony Small sentenced to 12 years for manslaughter

Mr Justice Jacobs has sentenced Small to 12 years in prison and said he will serve half in custody and the rest on licence.

Anthony Small

11.35am: Neil Elliott sentenced to 15 YEARS in custody for manslaughter

Mr Justice Jacobs has sentenced Elliott to 15 years in prison for manslaughter and six-month in prison, to serve concurrently, for the assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Neil Elliott

11.28am: Judge explains Darby's sentencing

Mr Justice Jacobs said he is satisfied that Darby took a knuckleduster to the scene and used it in the attack.

He said aggrevating factors include a significant degree of planning, he decided to help Mr Elliott take the law into his own hands, the attack was a group attack on  defenseless and vulnerable man in his own home and he tried to evade justice.

He said he has previous convictions for violence.

Mr Justice Jacobs said he believed Darby did not have an intention to kill.

11.25am: Darby sentenced to life with a minimum of 23 years in custody

Mr Justice Jacobs says he is sentencing Lee Darby for murder and for having a stun gun in the shape of a torch

He has sentenced Lee Darby to life with a minimum of 23 years in custody.

Lee Darby

11.06am: The public gallery is full

The sentencing hearing of the three men who killed Hartlepool man Michael Phillips is set to get under way.

Lee Darby was found guilty of murder and Neil Elliott and Anthony Small were convicted of manslaughter.

Mr Justice Jacobs heard submissions from the barristers representing the trio yesterday and said he would consider his sentence overnight.

Mr Phillips' family have been seated in the jury benches and the public gallery is also full.

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