Michael Phillips murder trial: Hartlepool man suffered brain damage, 17 rib fractures and a fractured skull

Michael Phillips suffered a fractured skull, brain damage, internal bleeding and 17 rib fractures as pathologist finds more than 50 injuries on his body.

Friday, 17th January 2020, 5:02 pm
Updated Friday, 17th January 2020, 5:40 pm
The case was heard at Teesside Crown Court.
The case was heard at Teesside Crown Court.

The 39-year-old died at his home 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 began at Teesside Crown Court, on Wednesday, January 16.

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.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

On the third day of the murder trial, on Friday January 17, the pathologist described to the jury more than 50 injuries Mr Phillips sustained in the assault.

Home office pathologist Dr Louise Mulcahy said: “It’s my opinion that Mr Phillips died as a result of torso and head injuries.”

The court heard Mr Phillips had suffered 17 rib fractures, which weren’t linked to the CPR chest compressions by emergency service workers, as well as tears to his spleen and left lung.

Mr Phillips also suffered from internal bleeding and 2.5litres of blood fluid and blood clot was found in his abdominal cavity and 200ml in his left chest cavity.

Michael Phillips

Giving evidence, Dr Mulcahy said this will “decrease your blood pressure and ultimately leads to a cardiac arrest and death.”

Mr Phillips also sustained serious head injuries including a depressed skull fracture which had a ‘squared edge’.

There were numerous other fractures to his skull and jaw and his brain was mildly swollen.

She said the injuries to Mr Phillips torso ‘could have cause death in isolation because of the significant amount of blood loss’.

She also added that the head injuries impacted more than ‘minimally’ to his death.

Nicholas Johnson QC prosecuting, asked if the gold plated knuckle duster could have accounted for the depressed skull injury.

Dr Mulcahy said: “It was my opinion that this could well account for the fracture to the skull.

“This was because of the shape of the knuckle duster in that it had flat faced and squared aspects which could well account for the shape of the depressed skull fracture.”

In cross-examination, Caroline Goodwin QC, defending Darby, asked Dr Mulcahy if the depressed skull fracture could have been caused by something other than a knuckle duster.

She said the ‘squared, flat edge’ is not ‘entirely unique’ and suggests it could have been caused by a different object.

She asked whether Mr Phillips falling on the top edge of the tank could have caused the injury.

Dr Mulcahy said she hadn’t seen the tank but that if it had a right-angled edge it is possible.

Giving evidence, Dr Mulcahy also said the toxicology report found prescription, legal and illegal drugs were in Mr Phillips’ system at the time of his death.

These included cocaine, morphine, prescribed codeine, methadone and two anti-depressant medications.

Dr Mulcahy said she did not believe an of those played a part in the 39-year-old’s death.

Although, she did confirm, when asked by Nicholas Johnson QC who is defending Neil Elliott, the amount of free morphine in Mr Phillips’ body has been seen in other cases to have killed people without any other cause.

When asked by defending Mr Johnson QC if Mr Phillips consumed the drugs after the ‘confrontation’ may the drugs have been the immediate cause for death, Dr Mulcahy agreed it could have contributed to his death, but didn’t think he would have survived the injury to his torso.