Last April, 18 year old Kieran Williams went missing. A widespread search by the police and local community commenced. Then, a month or so later, a body was discovered in a makeshift grave near an old Industrial estate next to the Northern Spire bridge.
The body, buried 0.75m into the ground, was decomposing, and an attempt had also been made to burn his remains. Two young men, Ben Cook and Louis Hackett, have been formally charged with murder and are now standing trial.
Jurors at Newcastle Crown Court were told the 18-year-old suffered more than 20 stab wounds in what was a “prolonged and sustained attack”.
Kieran, who lived in supported accommodation, was at the home of his mum, Tracey Williams, on April 18. She went out for food around 5.30pm and when she returned later on he was not there and she never saw him again.
David Lamb KC, prosecuting, said he had been in touch with the accused before going to meet them: He added: “The prosecution case is this pattern of contact leading to Kieran leaving his mum’s address and walking to the area where he was killed is indicative that this was a planned attack by these two defendants and they were in it together as part of a joint plan.”
Mr Lamb said that after allegedly murdering Kieran, Hackett texted him saying “are you taking the p***, where are you, waiting about like a daft *“, then added “f ya, don’t speak to me again”. My Lamb said: “Of course he didn’t because Kieran was dead.” Cook also messaged Kieran on Facebook asking “you back yet mate”.
The court heard on May 1 both of the accused returned to the burial site and Hackett went back on May 2, with Cook going back a day later. Mr Lamb said: “On June 2, about five weeks after the murder, Kieran’s decomposed body was discovered by a police offier and her police dog, buried in a grave in an area of heavy undergrowth in a disused industrial landscape.”
His body was examined by a pathologist and he found he had suffered at least 20 stab wounds, including three to the front of his chest, two to his right torso, seven to his neck and a number of other wounds to his limbs. One of the stab wounds had penetrated a membrane surrounding his heart, another penetrated his aorta and two entered his liver. He died from blood loss as a result of a “prolonged and sustained attack”.
The court heard an attempt had been made to set Kieran on fire in the grave but the fire damage was limited to his clothes not his body.
Mr Lamb said the grave was 0.75 metres deep and it “did not resemble a hurriedly dug or poorly constructed grave”. He said while it can’t be said with certainty the grave was dug before he was killed, there was evidence of pre-planning.
Mr Lamb said: “It was in a secluded area and access to vehicles would not have been possible. In short, this was not an easy place to get to. There were numerous spade marks in the sides and base of the grave. It was dug in clay soil and would’ve taken a considerable effort to dig out.”
Attempts had been made to cover the grave with leaves, sticks and branches. A shovel, spade and fork were later recovered by police on the bank of the River Wear.
When Hackett was interviewed he told polce Kieran was “like a brother to him”, said he “would give him the clothes off his back” and called him a “class lad” that he had a good relationship with him and that he, Kieran and Cook were all friends.
Police inquiries had led to the arrest of Cook and Hackett on suspicion of kidnap initially. Hackett denied any involvement but when a forensic archeologist found his fingerprint in clay on the grave and within the grave, he changed his story, saying he and Cook had gone to the deposition site and met Kieron. He claimed Cook argued with Kieran and Cook ended up producing a knife and stabbed Kieran numerous times.
He claimed he tried to pull Cook off him but Kieran collapsed. Hackett said Cook asked him to help him after it became clear Kieran was dead and said he was “not thinking straight” so he helped Cook bury him.
Cook then said Hackett had attacked Kieran and stabbed him multiple times and said Hackett had then threatened him with the knife he killed him with and told him to move the body. Cook said Hackett set fire to Kieran’s body then covered it with leaves and shrubbery. He said he was then told to leave and to ring Kieran later as if nothing was wrong.
David Lamb KC, prosecuting, said: “We say each man made his calculation before throwing his co-accused under the bus as a final throw of the dice to get out of their own involvement in a murder which, we say, both men were involved and in respect of which they were in it together.”
Cook, 19, of Fordfield Road, Sunderland, and Hackett, 20, of of Fordenbridge Square, Sunderland, deny the charges. The trial continues.