Men wearing new wellies formed 'burial party' after death of Wigan dad Christopher Hughes, murder trial told

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A murder trial has heard how a four-man “burial party” set off wearing wellies - specially bought from a supermarket just an hour earlier – after a Wigan man was hacked to death.

Some of the wives of the gang of nine, who are accused of kidnapping and murder, went to Asda to buy the boots and other items.

The four men who drove from a house on Sherwood Drive, Wigan, to bury Christopher Hughes’ body were also equipped with spades, dark clothing, hats, rubber gloves and bin bags.

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A Liverpool Crown Court jury heard how the vigilante gang was allegedly involved in hunting down Mr Hughes, who they suspected of raping a teenage girl.

Christopher HughesChristopher Hughes
Christopher Hughes

He was bundled into the boot of a blue Audi and driven to a country lane near the M58. where he was killed.

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A Home Office pathologist catalogued over 90 sharp force injuries to the 37-year-old’s head, neck, body and limbs – the vast majority inflicted whilst he was still alive, said John Elvidge, KC, prosecuting.

His mutilated body was found four days later, on February 22, on an embankment on White Moss Road South, Skelmersdale.

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The nine defendants – who also deny conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm – are Wigan men Alan Jaf, 52, of Ridyard Street, Worsley Hall; Martin Smith, 34, of Greenwood Avenue, Worsley Hall: Andrius Uzkuraitis, 27, of Holly Road, Worsley Hall; Dean O’Neill-Davey, 30, of Conrad Close, formerly of Bulteel Street; Razgar Mohammed, 40, of Plane Avenue, Worsley Hall; Khalil Awla, 48, of Greenwood Avenue, Worsley Hall; Curtis Balbas, 30, of Matheson Drive, Worsley Hall.

Facing the same charges are Albanian cousins Erland Spahiu, 34, of Uppingham, Skelmersdale, and Erion Voja, 21, of Peall Road, Croydon, London.

During cross-examination, Jaf denied he had been involved in covering up the offences.

He earlier told the jury that if he had found any evidence against Mr Hughes, he would have passed it to the police and denied having any intention of “doing any bad to him.”

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He claimed Spahiu “mentioned Curtis (Balbas) did something stupid” and when he later asked Balbas about it he replied, “nothing for you to worry about. Don’t worry Dean (O’Neill-Davey) will sort it out for me.”

The prosecution claim Balbas and Spahiu had punched Mr Hughes to the ground on Almond Grove, Worsley Hall on February 18 and forced him into the boot of an Audi – which was later chopped up – before driving off.

Jaf told the jury Balbas said he “put someone in a car.” He said O’Neill-Davey arrived and said, “I’m going to help him out and bury the body,” which shocked him.

The prosecution claimed that after the killing a “burial party,” including O’Neill-Davey, Spahiu, Voja and Uzkuraitis, travelled to Skelmersdale and was digging a grave on wasteland when they were disturbed by police cars so left.

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Jaf was quizzed by Richard Pratt, KC, defending O’Neill-Davey, about the wellington boots he claimed had been bought for off-roading.

The court heard Jaf, who owned M6 Motor garage in Wigan with Awla, was a member of a WhatsApp group called, “Off-road Signals 2022.” Other members of the group were Mohammed, who ran Star Autos, Uzkuraitis, Spahiu and Balbas.

Mr Pratt put to Jaf, “I’m not suggesting you played any part in the murder or kidnapping of Christopher Hughes. I am suggesting you organised and orchestrated the cover-up and the purchase of those items.”

Jaf replied “There was no plan.”

He agreed with Mr Pratt that he was O’Neill-Davey’s landlord and boss at the garage and was in the process of selling his car, but denied he had asked him to play a part in events.

Also in the dock is Michael Gibbons, 47, of Bulteel Street, Wigan, who denies perverting the course of justice. This allegedly involves providing false information to the police and helping O’Neill Davey to dispose of the Audi car.

The case continues.