Three men on trial in Liverpool Crown Court accused of murder of St Helens man (From St Helens Star)
Send us news by text, start your message Star News and your send photos and videos to 80360
Liverpool Crown Court hears allegations that St Helens resident Paul Morson was bound, battered to death and then pushed into Manchester Ship Canal
5:46pm Wednesday 3rd October 2012 in News
A 31-year-old man was battered to death with a lump hammer after being tied up and his weighted body pushed into the Manchester Ship Canal, a jury has heard.
The body of victim Paul Morson, who lived in Spinners Drive, Sutton, St Helens, has never been found after he disappeared in June last year, but three men went on trial today (Wednesday) at Liverpool Crown Court accused of his murder.
It is claimed that financial gain was, at least, partly the motive and the court heard that two of his attackers, Raymond Brierly and John Burns had financial difficulties at the time and very shortly after the murder a safe from Mr Morson's home was stolen.
The court was told that 59-year-old Brierly, at whose home in Windy Arbor Road, Whiston, the murder allegedly took place, has admitted killing Mr Morson but claims he acted in self-defence.
He also admits carefully wrapping his body up and pushing it into the water, alleged Neil Flewitt, QC, prosecuting.
Burns, 34, of Kipling Avenue, Huyton, Merseyside, Brierly and Scott Callaghan, 34, of Dalemeadow Road, Knotty Ash, Merseyside, all deny murder and Callaghan also denies attempting to pervert the course of justice.
The jury was told that Burns maintains in his defence statement that by the time he arrived at Brierly's home Mr Morson was already dead. Callaghan says that when he arrived at the scene Brierly was swinging a lump hammer in the direction of a prone body.
But Mr Flewitt pointed out that all three had earlier lied to police and given different versions of events.
"It is the prosecution case that all three defendants have consistently lied about their involvement in the events of 8 June 2011 and have done so because they all played a part in causing the death of Paul Morson," he said.
Opening the prosecution case Mr Flewitt said that Brierly says that the victim attacked him with a large pair of scissors and he was "fighting for his life against a vicious opponent. He was acting in self-defence and used any weapons that were nearby, including a bar stool and hammer."
Brierly says he had been renting his home out and found that Mr Morson was cultivating cannabis in it and the violence followed a row about rent arrears and him wanting the cannabis farm out of his home.
He said his co-accused were not present during the violence and refused to help him dispose of the body. Callaghan was paid to drive away the victim's van to make it appear he had voluntarily disappeared.
When re-interviewed two months later Brierly said he had wrapped the body several times in black plastic sheeting.
"He said when he did so there was a chisel sticking out of Paul Morson's chest. He then put plant pots onto Paul Morson's head and feet before binding the body with nylon rope. He then used bamboo canes to create a frame and to give the package a cylindrical shape."
Brierly said that acting alone he put the body into a borrowed van and then went with a friend to the Runcorn Bridge, telling the friend he was disposing of tax papers.
On the other side of the bridge they parked and then the two men carried the body on a home made stretcher to the water's edge. "Together they rolled the body down a steep embankment, weighted down with three concrete breeze blocks and pushed it into the water."
The court heard that Mr Morson had invested £50,000 in Burns's firm I Security. Burns and Brierly were friends and Mr Morson told his girlfriend that he had been growing cannabis with Burns and Brierly at Brierly's home.
In April last year Mr Morson told her he was no longer getting money from Burns and was going to tell him he wanted his investment back. Two days before he vanished he found that Burns had still not paid money into his account.
On June 8 his girlfriend came home to work and found he was not in and a small safe was missing from the bedroom, said Mr Flewitt. Evidence showed that after Mr Morson was killed between midday and 1 pm his van was seen being driven by one of the defendants towards and away from the area of Mr Morson's home.
The van was found abandoned in Holmes Chapel on June 21 and Callaghan's DNA was found on it. Mr Flewitt said that Callaghan confessed to a female friend that he had gone to a house with Burns and once inside he heard screams because Mr Morson was getting "battered."
He saw a lad tied up and blood everywhere.
He also told her Burns had given him £2,000 and was promised a further £10,000. "In order to earn such a large sum of money Scott Callaghan must have done more than drive the van away and played a part in the murder of Paul Morson," claimed Mr Flewitt.
He also outlined the graphic nature of the injuries alleged to have been inflicted on Morson.
Mr Flewitt said that at the time Burns' business was failing and he had been losing thousands on online gambling and at a casino. Brierly was in severe financial difficulties and on the day of the killing had been threatened with re-possession proceedings.
The case continues