Michael Phillips murder trial: Accused 'dumbstruck' at death

image copyrightFamily photo
image captionMichael Phillips was found with multiple injuries in a house in Hartlepool in June

A company director accused of being part of a gang which beat a man to death has told how he was "dumbstruck" to hear he had died.

The body of Michael Phillips, 39, was found with 50 injuries in Rydal Street, Hartlepool, on 10 June last year.

Appearing at Teesside Crown Court, seven men aged between 30 and 54 have denied murder.

One of the accused, Neil Elliott, 44, told the court he saw only one punch being thrown at Mr Phillips.

The trial has heard that Mr Elliott believed that Mr Phillips had burgled his daughter's home and he recruited a gang to get revenge.

'No real evidence'

The court heard that Mr Elliott had decided to "take the law into his own hands" and put a post on Facebook saying, "whoever burgled my daughter's home and took her car - your life is about to change, trust me".

But there was "no real evidence" Mr Phillips had carried out the burglary, jurors heard.

Giving evidence Mr Elliott, of Briarfield Close, a director of the waste firm Niramax, admitted being in the house for four minutes to recover his daughter's property.

Later he was told the victim had died. Mr Elliott said: " I was dumbstruck. How could he be. I was only just talking to him?"

The other defendants, all from Hartlepool, are: Lee Darby, 32, of Ridley Court; Anthony Small, 40, of Rydal Street; Gary Jackson, 31, of The Darlings, in Hart Village; John Musgrave, 54, and Sean Musgrave, 30, both of Wordsworth Avenue; and Craig Thorpe, 36, of Young Street.

All of them deny murder.

Mr Elliott has also denied assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The trial is expected to last until the end of February.

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