Michael Phillips murder trial: Hartlepool man suffered more than 50 injuries in attack, jury told

Sevennote-0 men have appeared in court to stand trial for the murder of Michael Phillips.

Friday, 17th January 2020, 7:28 pm

Michael Phillips, 39, died on Monday, June 10, 2019, at a house in Rydal Street in Hartlepool, following a disturbance that night.

At the time, Cleveland Police said Mr Phillips suffered “significant injuries” prior to his death, with the house cordoned off by officers for several days as an investigation got underway.

Seven men deny his murder and their trial began at Teesside Crown Court, on Wednesday, January 16, with the hearing expected last between four and five weeks.

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Michael Phillips was found with serious injuries at a house in Hartlepool's Rydal Street.

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.

They have all been charged with the murder of 39-year-old Michael Phillips from Hartlepool.

Darby and Elliott also deny burglary, while Elliott is accused of assault occasioning actual bodily harm against another man.

They appeared before judge The Honourable Mr Justice Jacobs at Teesside Crown Court where a trial jury was sworn in.

Prosecutor Nicholas Johnson QC told the court that at about 9pm on June 10, 2019, Mr Phillips was beaten to death in his own home in the centre of Hartlepool.

Mr Johnson said: "The persistent beating began as soon as he answered the door, when he was immediately attacked."

The jury heard from the prosecution how Mr Phillips suffered well over 50 injuries in the attack which claimed his life.

They included 15 rib fractures, skull and facial fractures and "traumatic" lacerations to his spleen.

He was confirmed dead at the scene by the emergency services.

Mr Johnson told the court in his opening speech: "[Mr Phillips] was killed in this way because it was thought that he may have burgled the house of one of the defendants' daughters the night before and stolen her car."

Mr Johnson said that one of the defendants, Neil Elliott, then took the law into his own hands and posted on Facebook: "Whoever burgled my daughter's home and took her car, your life is about to change, trust me."

Mr Johnson told the court that people were then recruited to obtain weapons and provide "muscle power" to then go to the street where Mr Phillips was believed to live.

He added that each of the defendants involved had the intent to cause serious harm to the person thought to be the burglar.

The court heard that Mr Phillips died as a result of injuries to his head and torso.

The jury was told how overnight from Sunday, June 9 to Monday, June 10, the home of defendant Neil Elliott's daughter was burgled.

Her Ford Fiesta, said to be a distinctive "yellow-green" colour with a personalised number plate, was stolen along with house and car keys.

The car was then seen being driven around for 15 minutes after 5am on June 10, before being parked in the town's Westbourne Road at 5.20am.

The jury was shown CCTV footage of the car driving past and then two minutes later two individuals are then seen walking by in the opposite direction.

Mr Johnson said it is on the the strength of the footage that Michael Phillips lost his life.

He added that it was just before 8am that Neil Elliott signalled his intent in a "stark and chilling" threat on his Facebook timeline.

The jury was then shown a screenshot taken from defendant Gary Jackson's phone of Elliott's Facebook post.

Elliott also posted details of his daughter's licence plate on Facebook asking people to look out for it.

Mr Johnson said: "It says that the hunt is on not just for the car, but for whoever took it."

The jury heard how defendant Sean Musgrave liked Elliott's post on Facebook and then called his father, and co-accused, John Musgrave.

Elliott was then said to be driving around the streets near his daughter's house.

The jury heard that, by 8.30am on Monday, June 10, at least four of the defendants were aware of what had happened with Elliott's daughter's car. By 9am on Monday, June 10, defendant Lee Darby had also been "recruited" to help in getting the car back.

The court heard that CCTV footage showed a black SUV driving along the road where the Ford Fiesta was abandoned.

Defendant Gary Jackson spotted the car and had gotten it back by 11am the same day, the jury heard. Defendant John Musgrave was then seen on CCTV driving down Westbourne Road and collecting something in a brown envelope, believed to be CCTV footage on a memory stick.

Mr Johnson has questioned why the accused were not giving the information they had to the police and that they had taken efforts "not just to get back stolen property, but to find out who had done it."

The court then heard how Elliot's car stopped on nearby Keswick Street at around 8.30pm on Monday, June 10, with accused Elliott and Darby getting out of the front of the vehicle.

Mr Johnson said that defendants Elliott, Darby, Craig Thorpe, Sean Musgrave and John Musgrave were in the vicinity of Rydal Street.

Gary Jackson then drove to the scene in a black Volvo and parked near to Rydal Street.

The jury then heard details of the attack on Mr Phillips.

Prosecutor Mr Johnson said Mr Phillips remained conscious for a short time after he was attacked, but didn't appear to know what had happened to him.

He then started to have a fit, with paramedics attempting CPR.

He was declared dead at 9.54pm on Monday, June 10.

The jury heard how a post mortem examination into his death found that Mr Phillips died as a result of the injuries to his torso and head.

The trial is due to resume at 10am on Thursday, January 16.