Great Britain

Day one: Round-up of evidence from Lindsay Birbeck murder retrial

A teenager killed a teaching assistant before moving her body in a wheelie bin and burying her in a makeshift grave, a court has heard.

The body of Lindsay Birbeck, 47, was discovered by a dog walker in Accrington Cemetery, on August 24 last year, the jury in a retrial at Preston Crown Court was told yesterday.

The 17-year-old male defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, denies murder and manslaughter - a new charge.

A retrial was ordered following an application to discharge the jury in the original trial back in March.

Mrs Birbeck, from Huncoat, went missing on August 12 last year.

Police launched a missing person appeal and extensive searches of the areas close to Burnley Road, where Mrs Birbeck lived, were carried out by officers and members of the local community.

On August 27, a 16-year-old boy was arrested in connection with Mrs Birbeck’s disappearance and on August 31, detectives charged the teenager with her murder.

The boy is now 17-years-old and denies killing the mother-of-two from Huncoat.

Yesterday a new jury of nine men and three women were sworn in and David McLachlan QC began opening the case for the prosecution.

Mr McLachlan said: “On Monday August 12 2019, Lindsay Birbeck went shopping with her daughter, Sarah, to The Mall in Blackburn and later to Asda in Accrington.

“A little after 1.30pm Mrs Birbeck dropped her daughter off and they arranged to see each other at 6pm that night.

“The plan was that Sarah and her boyfriend Brandon Lonsdale would go for tea that evening at her mother’s house.

“Just after 4pm, Mrs Birbeck left her house on Burnley Road, Accrington, and walked along Burnley Road in the direction of Accrington town centre.

“This was not unusual as she was a keep-fit enthusiast and enjoyed going for a walk on The Coppice, an area of woodland near to her house.

“At about 5pm Sarah and her boyfriend set off from her house, where she lived with her dad. They arrived at Mrs Birbeck’s but the door was locked, and they got no answer when knocking.”

The court heard how the couple waited outside for about an hour, but Mrs Birbeck never returned. Sarah Birbeck then phoned her dad, Tim Birbeck, who picked her and Brandon up at about 7.05pm.

Mr McLachlan told the court that Sarah was worried about her mum as it was out of character for her not to be at home when arrangements had been made.

Later, Sarah and her dad went back to Mrs Birbeck’s with a set of keys and entered the house but found it to be normal with nothing out of place, but no-one was there.

They returned home and shortly after midnight Mr Birbeck contacted the police to report Mrs Birbeck missing.

The court then heard how police launched a missing persons appeal and initially concentrated their efforts on The Coppice, with specially trained officers, other resources, and members of the local community assisting with searches.

CCTV footage from the time she was last seen showed Mrs Birbeck had been wearing a purple Rab jacket, a Fitbit watch, Skechers trainers, black leggings and a white/blue pinstripe top. She also had with her house keys and a mobile phone.

The jury was then guided through a timeline of events from August 12 up until August 24, in which it was explained that the defendant had been spotted numerous times on CCTV walking up and down Burnley Road between Accrington Cemetery and The Coppice.

At times he was spotted with a rucksack and had also been seen pulling a blue wheelie bin.

Mr McLachlan told the court that when the defendant was seen on August 16, witnesses had described the bin as ‘sounding empty’.

He told the jury: “It is the prosecution case is that this was the defendant doing a dry run for what was to happen the day after.”

The jury then heard that on August 17 the defendant had been seen again by different witnesses pulling the blue wheelie bin, but this time it appeared heavy.

Mr McLachlan said: “It is the prosecution case that on Saturday August 17 the defendant had moved Lindsay Birbeck’s body from The Coppice to the cemetery in the blue wheelie bin.

It was heard that on Saturday August 24, 12 days after she had gone missing, a man named Morgan Parkinson was out walking his dog in the grounds of Accrington Cemetery.

Mr McLachlan said: “The dog had gone into a wooded area and when Mr Parkinson followed he smelt a horrible smell.

“It smelt rotten and there were flies around it. He then stood on something soft and saw what looked like a leg. He called the police and when they arrived they discovered a body.

“It would later be discovered that this was the body of Lindsay Birbeck.”

The court heard how following a post-mortem examination on August 26, Home Office pathologist, Dr Naomi Carter, said that despite decomposition of the body she was able to determine that the cause of death was due to neck injuries.

Mr McLachlan said: “The prosecution case is that her killer is the young man in the dock.”

The trial continues.

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