Michael Phillips murder trial: Niramax boss denies being 'sergeant major' who brought together team of 'foot soldiers'

A Hartlepool waste firm boss has denied orchestrating and joining in a fatal gang attack as he tried to track down burglars who broke into his daughters’ home.

Friday, 7th February 2020, 6:00 am

Niramax director Neil Elliott and six other men have pleaded not guilty to the murder of Michael Phillips, 39, who died after an assault inside a house in Rydal Street on Monday, June 10, last year.

Nicholas Johnson QC, prosecuting, suggested Elliott was a “sergeant major and they were the foot soldiers,” as they searched for thieves of a car and money from his girls’ home.

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Police in Rydal Street last June in the aftermath of the death of Michael Phillips.

Mr Johnson QC also put it to Elliott he was “police, prosecutor, judge and jury” after the break-in, pointing out CCTV from where the car was found in Westbourne Road was not passed on.

While the theft was reported to police, Elliott admitted he did not trust them to investigate, with names of suspects given to him during the day.

However, he claimed there was no plan to bring together the men to attack.

His co-accused are Lee Darby, 32, of Ridley Court; 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 is ongoing at Teesside Crown Court.

While he referred to others as “friends” in his statement, he said he did not know all his co-accused well, especially Darby, who the prosecution claimed is known as “a person who would break bones.”

Elliott told the court he remembered being in the house with Darby, Jackson and Small, but no others, and admits punching Mr Phillips’ friend Lee Hardwell twice.

Mr Johnson put it to Elliott: “What you saw was these men and yourself attacking Mr Phillips with weapons and then stamping on him while he was curled up in a ball by the fish tank – that’s what you saw.”

To which Elliott replied: “That’s ridiculous, that’s not what happened,” adding a denial he kicked Mr Phillips.

Michael Phillips, 39, died following an assault which left him with 50 injuries.

The trial continues.