Wigan's week in court

The latest round-up of those who have appeared before Wigan magistrates and in the dock at crown court.

A car vandal has been ordered to pay compensation to her victim.

Gemma Rodgers, 38, of Comet Road, Marsh Green, appeared before Wigan magistrates to admit causing £350 damage to a Volkswagen T-Roc belonging to Paul Harrison on June 16 last year and later to breaching bail.

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Taking her guilty plea into consideration, the bench ordered Rodgers to cover the entire repair bill.

Wigan and Leigh court
Wigan and Leigh court
Wigan and Leigh court

A Wigan criminal who failed to keep an appointment with the authorities after his prison release is back behind bars.

Anthony Roby, 33, of no fixed address, appeared before Wigan and Leigh justices to admit failing to comply with supervision requirements by missing a planned office meeting on December 16 and could not be contacted thereafter.

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He was given another 14 days' custody because, the bench told him, he has shown a "flagrant disregard for court orders".

An arrest warrant has been issued for a Wigan mum who has been accused of benefit fiddling.

Rebecca Dolman, 34, of Moat House Close in Norley, is charged with claiming Child Tax Credit and Income Support over a four and-a-half-year period between 2017 and 2022 while living out of the country for periods longer than the law permits to make valid claims and, while doing so, failing to notify the authorities of these spells overseas.

She had been due to appear before Wigan and Leigh justices to face the charges but failed to appear so the bench issued a warrant for her arrest.

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A Wigan man has denied being a serial flasher.

Courtney Havill, 26, of Cedar Drive, Whelley, stood before Manchester and Salford magistrates having previously denied intentionally exposing himself with the aim of causing alarm or distress on October 2 and 23 2021, March 9 2022 and September 9 that same year.

He is being prosecuted under the 2003 Sexual Offences Act.

A case management hearing, which he does not have to attend, was set for February 22 and trial date was set for June 16, with this hearing taking place at Bolton Magistrates' Court.

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He is remanded on conditional bail until then.

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Wigan borough man charged with manslaughter after altercation outside nightclub

A Wigan 36-year-old man has denied mounting a stalking campaign against a woman lasting more than three months.

Craig Knox, 36, of Wigan Road, Standish, stood before borough justices to enter a not guilty plea to a single charge of a "course of conduct that caused Nicola Lane serious alarm or distress, which had a substantial adverse effect on her usual day-to-day activities."

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The hearing was told that he had sent "numerous threatening messages and texts."

His trial date at the same court was set for April 24 before which he has been released on bail, conditional that he has no direct or indirect contact with Ms Lane, sleeps at his home address each night and does not enter St Helens.

A man has been banned from the road after being caught under the influence of alcohol in a car he shouldn't have been driving on New Year's Day.

Afeez Oderinde, 27, of Derwent Road, Hindley, appeared before Wigan magistrates to admit drink-driving a Volkswagen Golf on Carr Street, Hindley, on January 1 this year when he had neither a licence nor proper insurance cover.

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The hearing was told he gave a reading of 43 microgrammes of alcohol in 100ml of breath when the legal limit is 35.

He was disqualified from driving for 14 months and ordered to pay a fine and victim services surcharge totalling £70.

A man has been accused of flouting a driving ban.

Donald Callaghan, 47, of Danbers, Up Holland, appeared before Wigan magistrates accused of being at the wheel of a Ford Focus outside his home on September 28 last year when disqualified from the road.

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He is also charged with driving without the proper insurance cover.

Callaghan has yet to enter a plea and the bench adjourned the case until he re-appears at the same court on February 9.

A fine has been imposed on a Wigan man who finally admitted to breaching a court closure order.

Daniel Fairhurst, 38, of no fixed address, had initially denied going to 37A Canberra Road, Marsh Green, on September 23 last year when it was subject to an order preventing any non residents from attending due to its being a magnet for anti-social behaviour.

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But at the latest hearing he changed his plea to guilty. Fairhurst had already admitted to a bail breach and when two fines, court costs and a victim services surcharge were totted up, he was ordered to pay £211.

Sentencing of seven men convicted of the vicious vigilante murder of innocent Wigan man Christopher Hughes is to take place early next month.

The men have unanimously also been convicted of kidnapping the 37-year-old, who was audaciously snatched off the street in broad daylight and bundled into the boot of a blue Audi A4 before being driven off to his agonising death.

The jury of eight men and four women at Liverpool Crown Court returned those verdicts yesterday following just over 34 hours deliberations.

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They cleared another man, Michael Gibbons, of perverting the course of justice, involving allegedly helping dispose of the Audi after the killing.

Today they also found him not guilty of a similar charge allegedly involving making a false statement to police.

Gibbons, 47, of Bulteel Street, Pemberton, shouted “yes” as did supporters in the public gallery when the final verdict was returned.

He was discharged from the dock.

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A ninth man, Lithuanian, Andrius Uzkuraitis, 27, of Holly Road, Worsley Hall, was cleared of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm.

He was however convicted of assisting an offender.

Uzkuraitis is to return for the sentencing hearing beginning on February 8 along with the other defendants - Curtis Balbas, 30, of Matheson Drive, Worsley Hall; Erland Spahiu, 34, of White Moss Road South, Skelmersdale; Dean O’Neill Davey, 30, of Conrad Close, formerly of Bulteel Street, Wigan; Martin Smith, 34, of Greenwood Avenue, Wigan; Alan Jaf, 52, of Ridyard Street, Worsley Hall; Khalil Awla, 48, of Greenwood Avenue; Mohammed Razgar, 40, of Plane Avenue, Worsley Hall and Erion Voja, 21, of Peall Road, Croydon, London.

Balbas pleaded guilty to kidnapping before the trial began and changed his plea to guilty to murder during the trial.

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Liverpool Crown Court heard during the trial, which began on October 20, that over 24 hours the gang ruthlessly hunted down Mr Hughes, whom they wrongly suspected of the knifepoint rape of a teenage girl behind a post office in Ridyard Street, Wigan.

He was finally spotted in Almond Grove, Wigan on February 18 last year and was swiftly abducted by Balbas and Spahiu, who worked together re-possessing vehicles.

On his way to Skelmersdale Mr Hughes, who had struggled as he was forced into the boot, was heard desperately asking, “What have I done wrong?”

A man who witnessed the kidnapping was warned by Spahiu, “keep your f...ing mouth shut, or you’re next”. Both Balbas and Spahiu deliberately turned their phones off during the 20 minutes between the abduction and after leaving the victim for dead.

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The victim, a former boxer, was driven to White Moss Road South, Skelmersdale near the M58 where, while he fought for his life, he was viciously stabbed to death, suffering more than 90 injuries, including wounds to his scrotum.

John Elvidge, KC, prosecuting, told how a Home Office pathologist “catalogued over 90 sharp force injuries to his head, neck, body and limbs - the vast majority of these injuries were inflicted whilst he was still alive.”

“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.”

His body was left at the foot of the embankment on White Moss Road South before being spotted by a dog walker four days later.

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On the evening of the killing O’Neill Davey, Uzkuraitis, Spahiu and his cousin, Voja, who was visiting from London, had formed a burial party to hide the body, said Mr Elvidge. The men, equipped with a spade, wellies, gloves, bottles of bleach and bin bags specially purchased for them from Asda, were digging a grave on nearly waste land when they were disturbed by police who were investigating a road traffic accident nearby and they abandoned the burial.

The jury heard that all the defendants were connected to one another by family ties, work or socially.

Jaf, Awla and Mohamed are married to sisters of Balbas and are all Kurdish Iraqis. Jaf and Awla owned M6 Motors and Mohammed owned Star Autos, both in Wigan.

O’Neill Davey worked for M6 Motors and lived in a house owned by Jaf. Balbas and Spahiu owned the convenience store, Mini Express in Beech Hill.

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Mr Elvidge said that “Unlike some of the defendants Mr Hughes was poor. He did not drive about in high end cars, own a business or even work.”

On the afternoon of his death Mr Hughes, who had become a drug addict, told friends he was aware that people were out looking for him because of rumours that he had attacked a girl.

Instead of going to police with their ill-founded suspicions the gang “acted as vigilantes - putting the administration of justice into the hands of those who volunteered or were selected to kidnap Christopher Hughes and to punish him”, said Mr Elvidge.

After the brutal murder Balbas hid at his girlfriend’s home in Audenshaw and replaced his telephone as did some of the other defendants.

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Shortly before his arrest on February 24 Balbas had been researching life sentences and the reduction in sentence for a guilty plea.

Both Spahui and O’Neill Davey searched the internet for newspaper information about the disappearance of Mr Hughes and Spahui bought Voja one way flights to Istanbul and Kosovo so removing him from the country.

The blue Audi was initially left at M6 Motors but it was then decided that this highly valuable vehicle should be taken away, dismantled and broken into pieces and it was taken to a unit at Douglas Mill, Wigan.

Police went to the breakers yard on February 28 and found parts of the vehicle - and blood swabs from the boot tellingly matched Mr Hughes’ DNA profile.

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All defendants have been further remanded in custody for the sentencing hearing which is expected to last two days.

A Wigan man who had denied stalking, assaulting and intentionally strangling a woman has walked free after the case against him collapsed.

But Lee Turner was still handed a community punishment for two breaches of a non-molestation order concerning another woman of which he had been convicted in his absence last year.

The 35-year-old of Harvey Lane, Golborne, had been awaiting a trial at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court on the assault, strangulation and first stalking charge, but when he got there no evidence was offered and so the case was dismissed.

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He told the Wigan Observer that he hasn’t ruled out contesting the convictions, saying that the order that he breached was overturned in court weeks after the offence was committed.

He added “I have kids, I coach a rugby team and I have a business and all this has been very damaging to me.

"I spent eight weeks in prison on remand for the stalking, assault and strangulation charges which were thrown out before they could go to trial.

"And I was convicted in my absence of the other charges at a hearing I hadn’t been made aware about. I would have gone if I had known.

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"The woman in question I haven’t spoken to in six years. She obtained a non-molestation order at the civil court and these can be granted without any evidence.

"I contested it but the case dragged on and in the meantime my car was seen twice going down the main road near where we live and that was enough to be in breach.

"Just weeks later I went to court and the original order was quashed, yet I have still been prosecuted for breaching an order that a court has ruled to be invalid.”

Lee Turner was also proved guilty of a bail breach in his absence for not attending the court hearing when the two stalking cases were to be heard which he says he wasn’t notified about.

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He was given a community order involving completing a maximum of 20 days’ rehabilitation activities and observing an eight week, electronically-tagged curfew.

He must also pay £114 to victim services.

A bench warrant has been issued for the arrest of a Wigan woman who failed to appear in court.

Zara Fairhurst, of Vulcan Road, Marsh Green, was due at Bolton Crown Court after being charged with attempted robbery and theft, but did not attend.

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The 32-year-old is accused of trying to rob Dawn Senior of keys and stealing £21 worth of chocolates, both on November 24.

She has not entered pleas to the charges but has admitted since breaching bail on December 12.

The trial of a Wigan borough man accused of a child sex crime has been delayed by 10 months.

Grosu Petrica, 58, of Prospect Street, Tyldesley, was due to stand trial at Bolton Crown Court this week, after being accused of deliberately engaging in sexual activity in front of a six-year-old girl for his own gratification.

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But the hearing has now been postponed until November 6.

It is alleged that the incident took place in Wigan on October 17, 2020.

A borough man has appeared in court accused of being involved in a fire at the home of a pensioner who died two weeks later.

George Redmond, 76, was taken to hospital with smoke inhalation and other injuries after a fire on Dorien Road, in Old Swan, Liverpool, at 3.20am on September 1.

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His family said he was making “great progress in his rehabilitation”, but he died suddenly on September 16.

Fraser Dolman, 37, of Richmond Drive, Leigh, and James Goulding, 26, of Dentons Green Lane, Dentons Green, were charged with conspiracy to commit arson with intent, supply of crack cocaine and supply of heroin; while Wayne Hepburn, 46, of no fixed address, was charged with manslaughter and conspiracy to commit arson with intent. Dolman and Goulding appeared at Wirral Adult Remand Court on Friday and were remanded on conditional bail to appear at Liverpool Crown Court on February 24.

Hepburn remains in custody to appear in court in Liverpool on Friday, February 3.