Blackhall Colliery: Pair jailed for perverting justice over man's murder

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image copyrightFamily photograph
image captionJohn Littlewood, also known as John D, was described as a loving son

Two people have been jailed for perverting the course of justice after a man was murdered in County Durham.

John Littlewood was bludgeoned to death in Blackhall Colliery by Marty Bates, who was later jailed for life.

James Riley, 31, and Donna Balfour, 36, admitted conspiracy to pervert the course of justice at a previous hearing at Teesside Crown Court.

The judge has now sentenced him to three years and six months, and her to two years and five months.

image copyrightDurham Police
image captionJames Riley and Donna Balfour pleaded guilty at a previous hearing at Teesside Crown Court

Riley, of Ninth Street in Blackhall Colliery, had also pleaded guilty to assault and witness intimidation.

Balfour, also of Ninth Street, had interfered with her home CCTV system in an attempt to delete footage.

Durham Police said Mr Littlewood, also known as John D, suffered catastrophic head injuries after being repeatedly beaten with a blunt instrument in the early hours of 26 July 2019.

His friend Marty Bates was charged with murder which he initially denied, but later changed his plea to guilty.

image copyrightDurham Constabulary
image captionMarty Bates bludgeoned his friend to death

In May, the 31-year-old, of Tenth Street, was handed a life sentence and ordered to serve a minimum term of 24 years.

The Northern Echo reported the killing spiralled out of unfounded rumours that Riley was responsible for the murder of toddler James Bulger.

Following the sentencing of Riley and Balfour, Det Supt Kevin Weir, who led the investigation, said: "Nothing can bring John D back but I hope these sentences give his family some closure and comfort.

"The investigation was complex and involved dozens of specialist officers who worked tirelessly to make sure the culprits were found so I know the whole team will be pleased knowing their hard work helped bring Bates, Riley and Balfour to justice."

image captionJohn Littlewood was found in his house in Blackhall Colliery

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