'˜Evidence shows Hartlepool man was dealer not killer,' claims defence in Norma Bell murder case

The chief barrister for a man on trial for the murder of a Hartlepool grandmother said the evidence backs up his client's case that he was a small time drugs dealer rather than a killer.

Monday, 30th January 2017, 3:13 pm
Updated Monday, 30th January 2017, 5:21 pm
Gareth Dack

Both the prosecution and defence sides in the case of Gareth Dack, accused of killing 79-year-old widow Norma Bell, have made their closing remarks to the jury.

The judge at Teesside Crown Court began her summing up yesterday with the jury due to consider their verdicts later today (Tuesday) or tomorrow (Wednesday).

Norma Bell

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In his closing speech Peter Makepeace QC, defending, said evidence the prosecution relies upon does not stand up to close scrutiny.

Mr Makepeace challenged DNA evidence linking 33-year-old Dack to Mrs Bell’s home in Westbourne Road where she was murdered and her house set on fire between the night of Saturday, April 2, and early the following morning.

The trial has heard that strong DNA matches to Dack were found on a spent match, gas cooker hob that had been left on, and back door handle.

Mr Makepeace said it was consistent with Dack’s account that he had visited Mrs Bell’s home innocently, including just before she was killed, when he says he used the match to light her fire.

Norma Bell

Mr Makepeace said: “There is a terrible risk that people can simplify and misunderstand DNA evidence and leap to simplistic conclusions.

“People just assume that DNA is the answer, it isn’t.”

Weaker DNA profiles for Dack were found on a wire used to strangle Mrs Bell, on her handbag, a briefcase in her bedroom, and on her underwear.

Mr Makepeace reminded people that partial DNA profiles could be the result of second or even third hand contact.

He said if Dack had killed Mrs Bell and set her house on fire, he would have been ‘mad’ to carry a TV stolen from her house through the streets and sell it soon afterwards to a friend.

Mr Makepeace said a witness’s description of a man seen carrying the TV did not match Dack’s.

He said: “It’s infinitely more consistent with him having bought it in the street than to have stolen it in the course of this horrendous thing.”

Dack claims he was selling cocaine from his parents’ garage in Westbourne Road on the night of the murder.

Mr Makepeace said there was no proof whatsoever to link £420 found in Dack’s VW Bora car, which the prosecution allege was stolen from Mrs Bell’s house, to her murder.

But he said it was more believable that it was proceeds from Dack’s drug dealing which he was hiding from his partner.

And he said Dack made no attempt to hide his trainers, which prints were found on a bin lid at Mrs Bell’s home, or to get rid of the clothes he wore.

“He wasn’t there and he wasn’t involved,” said Mr Makepeace.

Dack of Windermere Road, Hartlepool, denies murder and arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered.


Dack ‘lied, lied and lied again,’ said prosecution

The prosecution earlier told the jury Gareth Dack’s account was like a ‘soap opera’.

In his closing speech, prosecutor Christopher Tehrani QC said Dack had ‘lied, lied, and lied again’,

“Mr Dack claims the first thing he knew about the television was when a lad just happened to be wandering past his house and offered to sell it to him,” said Mr Tehrani.

“How likely is it that a man who had just been in Mrs Bell’s house was walking down the street with the television and would offer to sell it to someone he doesn’t know?

“It doesn’t happen like that, it’s like a bad soap opera.”

Dack consistently refused to name the people to whom he sold drugs, and he refused to answer all police questions on arrest.

“Mrs Bell had shown Mr Dack nothing but kindness over many years,” said Mr Tehrani. “How likely is it, if he is innocent, that he would not want to help the police catch her killer and exonerate himself at the same time?

“He is asking the court to believe coincidence after coincidence after coincidence.

“Throughout he has sought to ambush the prosecution by waiting to see the evidence against him and then explaining it, coming up with explanations late in the day.”

Mr Tehrani told the jury there were no direct witnesses to the alleged murder.

“Only two people know who did it,” he added. “Mrs Bell and her attacker, she cannot tell us because she is dead, and short of a confession, the attacker will not tell us either.

“You might think that circumstance is not unusual, and that no one would ever be convicted of murder if there had to be eyewitnesses.

“The case against Dack is properly brought, and the prosecution says you can be confident, after considering all the evidence, of Mr Dack’s guilt.”