Wigan dad 'murdered by vigilante gang who accused him of rape'

A Wigan dad was hacked to death after being hunted by a vigilante gang who suspected him of rape, a murder trial has heard.
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After being bundled into the boot of an Audi, Christopher Hughes had been driven to a quiet country lane and viciously attacked with weapons including a machete.

The mutilated body of the Marsh Green 37-year-old was found four days after the brutal attack lying on grass, having bled to death, Liverpool Crown Court was told.

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A dog walker made the shocking discovery about 11am on February 22 while on White Moss Road South, Skelmersdale, near the M58, after her dog sniffed the air and she looked over a short embankment.

Christopher Hughes withi his mum SusanChristopher Hughes withi his mum Susan
Christopher Hughes withi his mum Susan
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A Home Office pathologist “catalogued over 90 sharp force injuries to Mr Hughes’s head, neck, body and limbs - the vast majority of these injuries were inflicted whilst he was still alive,” said John Elvidge, KC, prosecuting.

“In the opinion of the pathologist more than one weapon was used, including a machete or hatchet, which was wielded in a chopping motion to inflict deep wounds; these were very severe injuries and the main mechanism of death was external blood loss,” he told a jury.

Details of the gruesome attack were given at the opening of the trial of nine men who all deny murder, conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm and kidnapping.

Police at the scene where Christopher Hughes's body was found near to the M58 at Skelmersdale Police at the scene where Christopher Hughes's body was found near to the M58 at Skelmersdale
Police at the scene where Christopher Hughes's body was found near to the M58 at Skelmersdale
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Alongside them in the dock at Liverpool Crown Court is a 10th man who faces a charge of perverting the course of justice.

Mr Elvidge told the jury the prosecution claim that In the 24 hours before his death, “nine of the defendants before you were engaged in a manhunt.

“They formed a team to track, trace and capture him. Each lent his assistance and encouragement to the others in support of their common objective.

"They may have played different roles in this joint enterprise but they all acted with the intention that Christopher Hughes should suffer really serious bodily harm.”

Christopher HughesChristopher Hughes
Christopher Hughes
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He claimed that they did this “to exact retribution for a heinous wrong that they believed, rightly or wrongly, Christopher Hughes had committed.”

This was the rape of a teenage girl, said Mr Elvidge.

“Instead of finding Christopher Hughes and taking him to the police to allow a proper investigation to be conducted, the defendants chose to take the law into their own hands.

“After he was killed the defendants continued to support one another, acting together and with others in what proved to be an unsuccessful attempt to conceal this brutal killing and their part in it.”

In the dock accused of murder, conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm and kidnap are Martin Smith, 34, of Greenwood Avenue: Andrius Uzkuraitis, 27, of Holly Road, Worsley Hall; and Dean O’Neill-Davey, 30, of Conrad Close, formerly of Bulteel Street.

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Mohammed Razgar, 40, of Plane Avenue, Worsley Hall; Alan Jaf, 52, of Ridyard Street, Worsley Hall; Khalil Awla, 48, of Greenwood Avenue, Worsley Hall; Curtis Balbas, 30, of Matheson Drive, Worsley Hall - all hail from the Kurdish part of Iraq.

Also facing the same charges are Albanians Erland Spahiu, 34, of Uppingham, Skelmersdale and his cousin Erion Voja, 21, of Peall Road, Croydon, London.

Michael Gibbons, 47, of Bulteel Street, Pemberton denies perverting the course of justice in the aftermath of the murder. This allegedly involves providing false information to the police and helping O’Neill Davey to dispose of the blue Audi car allegedly used to kidnap Mr Hughes.

Mr Elvidge warned the jury that they would heard some “gruesome” evidence during the trial which is expected to last about nine weeks.

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He claimed that during the evening of February 17 the defendants believed they had identified Mr Hughes as the man who had raped a girl behind the post office in Ridyard Street, Worsley Hall.

“That evening he was their target as they drove about the Worsley Hall estate asking for information that might help them to a man they believed to be a rapist.

"Acting together, as a team, the defendants approached people in the street and visited homes where they thought they might discover CCTV to help them find their man.

“They believed Christopher Hughes was the culprit and they gathered and shared information about him using social media platforms on the internet,” he alleged.

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About 8.30 pm this large group visited Mr Hughes’ home in Hampden Place, led there by Smith. Some of them went in but Mr Hughes was not there. Efforts to trace him were suspended over night but “as the next day’s events show the hunt was not over.

“The defendants kept in touch on Friday February 18. They were, variously, in the company of one another and also in frequent contact by telephone.

"They were preoccupied with finding Christopher Hughes until at about 4.30pm their efforts bore fruit when Christopher Hughes was cornered on Almond Grove, on the Worsley Hall estate.

“In a slick manoeuvre both Balbas and Spahiu jumped quickly out of a car and captured Christopher Hughes by punching him to the ground and then, immediately, picking him up and forcing him into the boot of the Audi, closing the lid on him before they drove away.

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“This is the sort of thing you expect to see in a film, but it happened in broad daylight, on a housing estate in Wigan.

"It was a premeditated kidnapping, and it was carried out with ruthless efficiency.

“At the time Smith, who acted as a spotter, was in the back of the Audi, and Razgar and Voja were patrolling nearby in a white Mercedes car. As the kidnap was in progress, Razgar Mohammed engaged in a telephone call with Smith.

“Balbas’s Audi sped off, driving the wrong way down a one way street, and made its way from Wigan to Skelmersdale, where Spahiu lived. It dropped Smith off on the way. Razgar headed towards the garage where Jaf, Awla and O’Neill Davey were working.

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“A CCTV camera recorded the Audi as it entered White Moss Road South from junction 4 at 4.48pm. Twenty minutes later, at 5.08pm the same car was headed towards junction 3 of the M58 and towards Wigan.

“In the intervening period Christopher Hughes was taken from the boot, viciously attacked and then left at the foot of the embankment on White Moss Road South.”

Mr Elvidge alleged that In the aftermath, throughout that Friday evening the defendants who were connected by family ties, through work or socially, were in contact with one another as steps were taken to dispose of the body.

“A burial party - the prosecution say O’Neill Davey, Spahiu, Voja and Uzkuraitis can be identified - travelled to Skelmersdale and was in the process of digging a grave on wasteland close to the deposition site where Mr Hughes had been left when they were disturbed by police cars in the area coincidentally engaged in connection with a road traffic offence.

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“So the burial was abandoned. O’Neill Davey was still in the area when he was stopped by officers in another police car. He was dressed in his grave digging kit including wellies. Remarkably, he managed to retain his composure when spoken to and was allowed to go on his way by the police.

“The body of Christopher Hughes remained, undiscovered, below the verge of White Moss Road South for several days. Snowy, wet weather over the weekend reduced pedestrian traffic and it was not until Tuesday 22nd that he was found.

“In the meantime, the defendants continued to cover their tracks by attempting to distance themselves from the kidnapping and murder.

Mr Elvidge pointed out, It has not been proved that the victim had raped the teenager.

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“In a sense it does not matter. What matters is that the defendants believed he had and that he deserved to be physically punished. By their actions the defendants deprived him of the rights we are all entitled to - the right to a fair trial; and, above all, his right to life.

“None of the defendants communicated their suspicions about Christopher Hughes to the police or told the police what they were doing,” he said.

All 10 men deny the charges against them.