Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Vigilante gang, led by woman, tortured and beat teen wrongly accused of rape

A woman led a vigilante gang who tortured an 18-year-old to death after he was wrongly accused of rape, according to evidence introduced in court.

Emma Hall, 21, helped three men in their 20s kill teenager Luke Harwood in Romford, Essex, after an 18-year-old girl claimed he had attacked her two years earlier, the court was told. The gang planned to slice off his fingers and pull out his teeth so that his body could not be identified

Mr Harwood was kicked and stamped on with such force that the bones in his face were broken, before he was dumped under a mattress in a quiet lane, the Old Bailey heard.

The "victim" had made a complaint about Mr Harwood to the police two years earlier, when she was 16, but the matter was dropped when she withdrew the allegation, jurors learned. The police determined that "it was clear she was not in fact saying that he had raped her and no further action was taken against him."

The girl pointed Mr Harwood out to his killers at a chance meeting at a house on the evening of May 27 last year, said prosecutor Simon Denison QC.

James Danby, 27, and Jovan Roberts, 28, took pictures of Mr Harwood in his council bedsit to show to her. Minutes later, they attacked him in his room, the court heard.

Mr Harwood, who was 5ft 7in and weighed just seven stone, had just collected his keys and begun moving in after falling out with his girlfriend. The father of one, who had an eight-month-old son, Mr. Harwood was then brutally beaten by Danby, Roberts and Hall's boyfriend Tony O’Toole, 29, the prosecutor said.

Mr Denison said: "Within a very few hours of those photographs being taken he was dead. He was about to be severely beaten up and brutally killed."

"The men, over a prolonged period of time, severely beat him up by punching and kicking him to the head, so he was bleeding heavily from his injuries and his face was terribly swollen."

Hall cackled throughout the two-hour assault, the court heard.

She later allegedly drove two of the men and Mr Harwood to a quiet lane in Woodford Green, east London, in her blue Fiat Punto, where he was taken to the bank of a stream and "finished off."

Once there, Danby tried to choke Mr Harwood, but when he put up a fight he stamped on his head 20 times. He later boasted the victim's head "went like a marshmallow and popped where his brain came out," jurors were told.

Hall initially claimed Danby had been solely responsible for the fatal attack, in a bid to save herself and her lover O'Toole, it is alleged. But her lies unravelled when officers went to the house and found the younger girl alone and petrified.

Mr Denison added: "At one point Danby brought Luke into Emma Hall's room to show them what they had done to him. They could see his face was a mess, his nose looked broken and there was blood and bruises all over his face."

When they returned from killing Mr Harwood and dumping his body, the attackers were laughing and joking, the court was told.

Mr Denison said: 'They killed him by punching and kicking him and stamping on his head many, many times. The bones in his face were crushed.'

He said the gang then bought petrol and set fire to their bloody clothing, before cleaning up bloodstains at the house.

The following evening, Hall drove two of the attackers and two other men to the spot where the body had been covered with a mattress and other rubbish, the court heard.

Mr Denison said: "They had with them knives and a pair of bolt cutters that they were intending to use to mutilate his body to make it more difficult for him to be identified by cutting off his fingers and removing his teeth."

But Hall had secretly tipped off police, who were waiting for them when they arrived, said.

Mr Denison told the jury: "His murder was quite extraordinarily callous, violent and brutal."

Hall, Danby, O’Toole, and Roberts deny murder and causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

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