Michael Phillips murder trial: Latest updates from Teesside Crown Court as trial continues

A jury is continuing to hear evidence in the trial of seven Hartlepool men who deny the murder of Michael Phillips.

Tuesday, 18th February 2020, 10:39 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th February 2020, 11:06 am
Seven men are standing trial at Teesside Crown Court charged with the murder of Michael Phillips.

The 39-year-old died on the evening of Monday, June 10, last year following an attack inside a house in Rydal Street in the town.

Despite emergency services trying for 40 minutes to save him, Mr Phillips sadly died.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The defendants standing trial are Lee Darby, 32, of Ridley Court; Neil Elliott, 44, of Briarfields Close; Gary Jackson, 31, of The Darlings in 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.

The trial has been going on for more than a month at Teesside Crown Court.

Our reporter Mark Payne is at the court bringing us live updates from today’s hearing.

Michael Phillips murder trial: Latest updates from Teesside Crown Court as trial continues

Last updated: Tuesday, 18 February, 2020, 12:01

  • Seven men stand trial accused of murdering Michael Phillips.
  • Accused Neil Elliott, John Musgrave, Anthony Small and Gary Jackson have been among those to appear in the witness box from the defendants during the hearings.
  • On Monday, February 17, defendant Craig Thorpe gave his evidence.
  • Today the court has heard from a forensic toxicologist who gave evidence on the effects of heroin in the system. 
  • All of the evidence has now been completed and summing up will begin.
  • Proceedings have now been adjourned and will resume on Wednesday, February 19. 

RECAP: Who is accused of Mr Phillips' murder?

Lee Darby, 32, of Ridley Court. Represented by Caroline Goodwin QC and Jane Foley.

Neil Elliott, 44, of Briarfields Close. Represented by Dominic Thomas and Nicholas Johnson QC.

Gary Jackson, 31, of The Darlings in Hart Village. Represented by Stephen Constantine and John Elvidge.

Sean Musgrave, 30, of Wordsworth Avenue. Represented by Ayesha Smart and John Harrison QC

John Musgrave, 54, of Wordsworth Avenue. Represented by Nigel Edwards QC and Lewis Kerr.

Anthony Small, 40, of Rydal Street. Represented by Martin Scarborough and Nicholas Lumley.

Craig Thorpe, 36, of Young Street. Represented by Mark Trafford QC and Soheil Khan.

RECAP: What happened in court on Monday?

Teesside Crown Court

Defendant Craig Thorpe gave his evidence at Teesside Crown Court on Monday, February 17.

Asked if he was expecting any trouble at all, Thorpe replied "no." 

Later the court heard how Thorpe had spoken to John Musgrave on the phone and the pair decided to hand themselves into police.

Thorpe confirmed that he was in the police station with John Musgrave but at that point there was no warrant for their arrest.

Asked: "At that stage did you think you had done anything wrong?" Thorpe replied: "I didn't, no."

10.30am: Proceeding get underway

Our reporter Mark Payne is at Teesside Crown Court to cover today's proceedings. 

10.50am: Forensic toxicologist called to give evidence

The trial has started again with the defence barrister for Neil Elliott calling Richard Brown, a forensic toxicologist whose job entails considering the effects of drugs, alcohol and medication on the body.

11.05am: Mr Phillips had taken heroin in hours before he died

Forensic toxicologist Mr Brown says he was asked to consider when Michael Phillips had last taken heroin based on the toxicology findings.

He says the presence of a breakdown product of heroin in Mr Phillips blood stream suggests he had taken the drug within the last one to two hours.

11.20am: Fatal doses of heroin discussed

Nicholas Johnson QC defending Elliott suggests to forensic toxicologist Mr Brown that the fatal dose of heroin can change if a regular user has come off the drug and started using it again.

Mr Brown says: "If they stop using the drug tolerance diminishes."

Mr Johnson asks: 'Is it possible for a user who restarts using heroin to accidentally kill themselves by misjudging the amount they can tolerate?'

Mr Brown agrees.

11.30am: Prosecution questions forensic toxicologist

Mr Brown is cross examined by Nicholas Johnson QC who is leading the prosecution case.

He puts it to the witness that unlike alcohol, it is not possible to calculate backwards exactly when someone has taken heroin or how much they took based on toxicology results.

Mr Brown says: "I can't say how much was consumed. It may be consumed at an earlier time and would give the same reading as a smaller dose consumed sooner or closer to the time of death."

Mr Johnson further suggests the toxicology findings can be affected by several factors such as the purity of the drug taken, the user's tolerance and their metabolism.

Mr Brown agreed, but added it is likely Mr Phillips had taken heroin recently prior to his death as the breakdown product disappears at a fast rate in the bloodstream.

11.40am: Court learns about Elliott's hearing problems

A statement by Elliott's consultant at James Cook Hospital is read about his hearing problems.

The jury are told Elliott has hearing loss in both ears and without hearing aids finds it difficult to follow any conversation that is not on a one to one basis.

The consultant adds the disability will be "greatly amplified" by background noise.

11.50am: Evidence now completed

The jury has now been discharged until tomorrow morning. 

Barristers in the trial will spend the rest of the day preparing and making legal submissions to the judge in their absence.

Mr Justice Jacobs tells the jury: "We have to all intents and purposes completed all the evidence in the case.

"The next thing will be for me to give you some directions of law before counsel make their speeches."

12pm: Timeline of the final stages of the trial set out

Mr Justice Jacob sets out the anticipated timeline for the rest of the trial.

Final speeches by the prosecution and barristers for each of the defendants are expected to take up all of Thursday and Friday.

Monday is expected to be spent by the judge giving his summing up of the important parts of the evidence.

The jury is expected to retire to begin considering their verdicts on Tuesday morning.

Page 1 of 2