Pair guilty of taking Ellen’s belongings

Dean Speakman and Vicki Calland
Dean Speakman and Vicki Calland

A couple has admitted handling the stolen laptop and mobile phone of murdered college student Ellen Higginbottom and then trying to destroy them.

Dean Speakman and Vicki Calland, both from Billinge, pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods and perverting the course of justice at Manchester Crown Court.

Ellen Higginbottom

Ellen Higginbottom

They will now be sentenced at a later date.

A trial date has also been set for the man accused of murdering 18-year-old Ellen.

Mark Steven Buckley, 51, appeared via videolink from HMP Manchester for a brief hearing at Crown Square.

Ellen was reported missing by her family after failing to return home from Winstanley College last Friday evening.

Her body was found near a wheat field close to Orrell Water Park in Wigan in the early hours of last Saturday as police combed the area. A post-mortem examination confirmed that she died from multiple wounds to the neck.

Buckley, with a shaved head and goatee beard, spent most of the hearing sitting unmoving, wide-eyed, staring straight ahead. The defendant, of New Hall Lane, Preston, did not enter a plea.

Judge Richard Mansell QC remanded him in custody until a further hearing on September 4, ahead of a two-week trial which is due to begin on December 11.

David Steele, 47, of Oakley Avenue, Billinge, is charged with perverting the course of justice and handling stolen goods. He did not enter a plea and was also remanded into custody to appear on the same day and at the same court as Buckley.

Speakman and his partner Calland, both 30 and from Cob Moor Avenue, Billinge, both pleaded guilty to a single charge of perverting the course of justice and handling stolen goods.

Judge Mansell remanded Speakman into custody until September 4. But his partner Calland was granted bail as she is a mother-of-four and the “least culpable” the court heard.