LancsLive has been bringing you full coverage of the Lindsay Birbeck murder trial, and in this article is everything we know so far.

A teenager is accused of murdering the high level teaching assistant in a woodland before using a wheelie bin to bury her naked body in Accrington Cemetery.

Prosecutors say attempts were made to 'cut off' her leg after she died and that 'significant force' was used to fracture her neck.

A Home Office pathologist said she had ‘never seen such extensive crushing damage to an entire larynx’ and could not rule out any sexual activity or the possibility that Lindsay had been 'smothered' due to the levels of decomposition.

The mum-of-two was found in a shallow 'makeshift grave' at by a dog walker on August 24 last year - 12 days after being reported missing by her worried family, jurors were told.

The 17-year-old defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has admitted hiding and moving Lindsay's body using a wheelie bin before burying her in the cemetery.

However he told police that he played no role in the teaching assistant's death and was offered "a lot of money" by an unknown man to "get rid of the body".

The youth is standing trial at Preston Crown Court where he denies a single charge of murder.

The prosecution opened their case to the jury this week and evidence has been heard from Lindsay's family, police, medical and forensic experts, community volunteers and dog walkers.

Here is how the trial has unfolded so far:

Wednesday, February 26

Prosecutor David McLachlan QC opened the Crown's case on Wednesday morning and told the jury that Lindsay Birbeck was murdered in an area of woodland called the Coppice before the defendant used a wheelie bin to bury her naked body in Accrington Cemetery.

He said the accused, who was 16 at the time, went to 'exceptional lengths to move her body' and also carried out a 'dry run' of the route.

Lindsay, 47, was found at the cemetery wrapped in two plastic bags and loose vegetation 'pulled by hand' had been placed across the grave to 'disguise its presence'.

Gloves found at the cemetery contained the defendants DNA on the inner surfaces and Lindsay's DNA was found on the outer surface of the left hand glove.

The blue wheelie bin had blood matching Lindsay's DNA and a large skip from the cemetery contained a pair of her Sketchers trainers which had been cut along the sole.

Mr McLachlan said a search of the defendants home in Accrington recovered clothing which matched what he was wearing on CCTV clips from August 12, 16 and 17.

Clear plastic bags and a roll of plastic sheeting was seized from an outbuilding and were 'indistinguishable' from those recovered at Accrington Cemetery.

An iPhone box containing a lock knife and soil and was also found.

The jury were told of Lindsay's final movements on August 12, 2019, and how she had earlier spent the day shopping with her daughter Sarah at The Mall in Blackburn and Asda in Accrington.

In a statement, Sarah said he said her mum 'seemed very upbeat and very positive' and was looking forward to her receiving her GCSE results.

When Lindsay dropped Sarah off at her home in Hapton, the last words she said to her were: "See you at 6pm. Love you. Bye".

Lindsay was described as 'funny and outgoing' and family and friends said her disappearance was 'very unusual and out of character'.

Mr McLachlan said Sarah and her boyfriend Brandon had arranged to meet Lindsay for tea but when they arrived at her home the door was locked and they got no answer.

They waited outside for around one hour but Lindsay never returned.

Sarah said she was worried about her mum as it was out of character for her not to be home when arrangements had been made.

She sent her a text message saying "Where are you? I was sat outside for an hour and rang six times."

When she received no answer Sarah sent another message with a series of question marks but again got no reply.

The court was told that Sarah sent a Facebook message to Lindsay's friend Sharon Griffiths but she had also not heard from her.

She later returned to Lindsay's home at 11.45pm with her father Tim Birbeck and a set of keys but there was no one inside.

Tim then contacted police telling the operator: “My ex-wife seems to have gone missing and my daughter’s just got me up and been to her house and had a look and we can’t find her. It’s not like her".

The court was told that Lindsay had separated from Tim Birbeck in around July 2018 but they continued to live together until March 2019 when she moved into her own house.

Sharon Griffiths, who had been friends with Lindsay for 25 years, said Lindsay 'found her separation hard and was quite down but was definitely coming out the other side of that'.

She described how Lindsay regularly walked up the Coppice and was a 'very fit' person.

The jury was told that the last message Lindsay sent to Sharon was at 3.09pm on August 12. Lindsay was also exchanging text messages with her new partner Rob Chaplow until a final message at 3.41pm.

Sharon concluded her statement to police saying: "I don't know any good reason why Lindsay would be missing. It really is not like her."

The jury were told that Lindsay had left her home on Burnley Road, Accrington, at around 4pm on August 12 in the direction of the town centre.

Lindsay, who worked as a teaching assistant at Ightenhill School in Burnley, was last seen on CCTV wearing a purple Rab jacket, a Fitbit watch, Sketchers trainers, black leggings and a white/blue pinstripe top.

Dog walker Judith Bibby said she went to the Coppice with her husband Martin at 4.20pm on August 12 and noticed a red anorak hanging on a barb wire fence post.

She also 'heard a voice' but could 'not say if it was male of female'. She said: "It was soft, not shouting, nothing malicious."

Mrs Bibby said they returned to the Coppice the next day and the red anorak 'wasn't there'. She reported the sighting to an 'official looking' man on the Coppice who was helping with the search for Lindsay and then to police a few days later.

Mr McLachlan said the defendant was seen on CCTV walking up Burnley Road in Accrington at 2.27pm on August 12 and turned off into The Coppice.

At 6.19pm the defendant was seen on CCTV crossing over Burnley Road from the Whitakers Arms side with his hood up, his tracksuit top partially unzipped and he 'appeared to be bare chested'. He also appeared to have 'wet knees'.

The jury was told that the defendant was later seen on CCTV with a black rucksack heading back to the Coppice area and at 8.28pm was seen pulling a wheelie bin on Burnley Road.

A dog walker said the bin 'sounded hollow as he was pulling it and was making a rattling sound on the pavement'.

At 11.18pm the teenager left the area with the rucksack but no longer had the wheelie bin.

Mr McLachlan told the jury that the bin was used to 'conceal her body'.

The prosecution said the defendant visited the area behind the Whitakers Arms off Burnley Road again on August 16 and was doing a 'dry run for what was to happen the day after'.

He was seen on Burnley Road at 1.50pm on August 17 pulling a wheelie bin and it 'appeared to be heavy'.

The prosecutor said the wheelie bin now contained Lindsay's body and the teenager was moving her 'from one place to another'.

Around 45 minutes later the teenager was seen pulling the wheelie bin down the side of the Whitakers Arms and across Burnley Road before entering the cemetery. At 3.50pm he was seen leaving the cemetery without the blue wheelie bin.

Lancashire Constabulary released a CCTV clip to the media on August 27 showing a male pulling a blue wheelie bin along Burnley Road.

Later the same day the defendant went to Greenbank Police Station in Blackburn with his family and he was arrested on suspicion of Lindsay's murder.

During his police interview he answered 'no comment' to all questions that were put to him.

The teenager, who has 'moderate learning difficulties', later provided a prepared statement through his solicitor.

It said: "I did not murder Lindsay Birbeck. I was not involved in her death. I was not present at the time or place of her death.

"I did move a body from an area off Burnley Road Accrington in a wheelie bin.

"At first I hid the body but later moved it again in a wheelie bin, taking it to the cemetery on Burnley Road where I buried it on my own.

"A man came up to me when I was walking alone in that area off Burnley Road and he asked me to “get rid of a body” for him.

"He said that he would pay me a lot of money when everything was clear. He showed me where the body was and he went away straightaway leaving me to “get rid of the body”.

"I have not met this man before. I have not met him since nor have. I had any contact with him. He has not paid me any money.

"He told me that he would leave the money for me near where the body had been at first once everything was clear.

"I cannot describe the man other than to say he was white, male, spoke English.

"I could not see his face well as he was covering it with his hood. I am not sure of his height, build or age.

"Other than as above I do not wish to say anything further”.

Mr McLachlan said the defendant now accepts he was the person seen on the CCTV clips.

Concluding the prosecution opening, he said: "Lindsay Birbeck went out for a walk by herself in the mid afternoon. It is likely that she was going to walk on The Coppice. She never made it back home.

"The reason why she never made it back home is because she had been killed on The Coppice.

"The prosecution case is that the killer was [the defendant]. He took steps to hide what he had done by taking a blue wheelie bin to the area of The Coppice on August 12.

"For some reason he decided to move the body to the cemetery across Burnley Road."

Thursday, February 27

On Thursday morning jurors were told about the movements of the accused in the days after her disappearance.

Statements were read from witnesses in the area of Burnley Road in Accrington and described the defendant 'pulling and pushing' the 'really heavy' blue wheelie bin into Accrington Cemetery on August 17, 2019.

He was 'struggling to control the bin' and 'immediately stood out and looked out of place', Preston Crown Court heard.

At one point the defendant was seen to 'sit on top of the bin’ for around five minutes and 'look towards the bushes and the railway line’.

The wheelie bin found in Accrington Cemetery

Natalie Bartholomew said she was walking down Burnley Road with her partner Nick Haworth and saw a male pulling a wheelie bin with both hands.

Ms Bartholomew said the male didn’t say anything but she thanked him for letting them past.

She also commented to her partner ‘how strange it was for such a young lad to be pulling a bin down there’.

Ms Bartholomew said he was ‘dragging the bin behind him and still pulling it with both hands and it appeared to be heavy’.

She added that ‘normally if these bins are empty they would bounce around’.

In Mr Haworth's statement, he said the male pulling the wheelie bin was ‘looking shifty’ and it was ‘out of context and bizarre’.

The jury were told how Stephen Greenwood was working at a house on Burnley Road between 2.30pm and 2.45pm on August 17, 2019.

In his statement he said he spotted a male pulling a wheelie bin on the pavement in the direction of the cemetery and stop at the junction of Whitewell Road.

Mr Greenwood said the male changed his grip and manoeuvred the bin onto an ‘uneven surface’.

He said: “Considering how he did this I believe there was weight in the bin.”

Elaine Hewitt and Patricia Lee described in their statements seeing a male 'pulling and pushing' a wheelie bin into the cemetery.

Ms Hewitt in her statement said: “He was really struggling to push it. It appeared as though something really heavy was in the bin. He was struggling to move it.”

The jury were told that she thought he was ‘going to drop some litter in the cemetery and considered saying something’ but didn’t.

The male was then seen pushing the bin down the slope and then stop near the parking area.

Ms Hewitt said he ‘sat on top of the bin’ for around five minutes and was ‘looking towards the bushes and the railway line’.

Ms Lee, in her statement, said the male ‘immediately stood out and looked out of place'.

She also described that the bin appeared to be ‘really heavy and he was struggling to control the bin’.

Ms Lee said she was ‘gawping or glaring at the male and thought he was so out of order if he was dragging rubbish in the cemetery’.

CCTV was shown to the jury of the defendant leaving the cemetery through a side gate at around 3.50pm on August 17.

Detective Sergeant David Bowler told the court that Lancashire Constabulary started a missing from home investigation after Lindsay was reported missing and she was classed as ‘high risk’.

The search concentrated on the Coppice and included police officers, police dogs and handlers, mountain rescue, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service and an urban search and rescue team.

Police were also tasked with finding property that Lindsay was known to have with her.

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Lindsay Birbeck murder trial

On Thursday afternoon the jury were told of the moment community volunteers and dog walkers found the wheelie bin used to move Lindsay's body at Accrington Cemetery.

Daniel Westwell said he was searching the wider area on his off-road bike when he made the discovery at around 8pm on August 19. He lifted the bin lid wearing gloves to smell inside but it was 'clean'.

Police dog handler PC John Cuthbertson said he was tasked to search the cemetery on the morning of August 20 and also found the wheelie bin underneath a section of trees. He opened the lid and peered inside it was completely empty and relatively clean’.

Dog walker Jonathan Kell, who was searching for Lindsay on August 20, also found the empty wheelie bin and later noticed a patch of dry blood on the paw of his dog Oscar and speckles of blood' on his undercarriage.

Mr Kell said: "I started examining his paw but could not see an injury. He was not limping. I thought this was strange. When I felt around his paw he did not react to it."

The search for Lindsay Birbeck on August 20

At around 9pm on August 20, Gemma Hudson, Leanne Singleton and Sarah Thistlethwaite looked inside the empty bin as part of their search for Lindsay.

They described how the bin was ‘empty inside and looked clean’ but stated there was a ‘dark stain on the outside they think maybe blood’.

The jury were told that Ms Thistlethwaite took a photograph of the bin and Ms Singleton contacted police.

PC Birchall attended the scene and used a ‘wet tissue to touch the smear’. The officer said it was ‘brown with small granules like sand or grit’ and believed it to be mud.

He said there was ‘no evidence at the time’ to link the bin with Lindsay Birbeck’s disappearance and it was ‘left in situ’.

Dog walker Patricia Stevenson said she 'panicked' after seeing the wheelie bin on the morning of August 21.

The jury was told that she did not go near the bin and instead alerted a cemetery worker who attended on his mower.

Christine Alderson described the moment she found a 'bloodied tissue' on the grass at Accrington Cemetery on August 18.

The jury heard that she was walking her dogs with her daughter at the time.

Ms Alderson said the blood on the tissue was ‘fresh and red’ and thought it might have belonged to a homeless man who was known to be in the area.

In her statement, Ms Alderson also spotted some 'trampled' ground nearby which 'looked like someone had walked through it'.

She also described seeing a 'flattened area like something had been laid on the ground’.

She said it was was ‘totally straight and the same distance apart’ and ‘could be like pulling a wheelie bin through undergrowth’.

Friday, February 28

Harrowing evidence was told to the jury on Friday morning revealing how Lindsay's body was found with severe injuries - including lacerations to her right leg.

Dr Naomi Carter said attempts were made to 'cut off' her leg after she died and 'significant force' was used to fracture her neck.

She said in her 25 years experience as a Home Office pathologist she had ‘never seen such extensive crushing damage to an entire larynx’.

She also told the jury that she could not rule out any sexual activity or the possibility that Lindsay had been 'smothered' due to the levels of decomposition.

Dr Carter said a 16cm laceration to Lindsay's right leg could have been made using a saw as there was evidence of 'teeth marks'.

She said there was ‘gross disruption of the deep neck structures’ but it was 'unclear if strangulation had occurred'.

The jury was told that it was ‘unusually severe for simple compression of the neck’ for strangulation to be the ‘only explanation’.

Dr Carter said: "It suggests to me some sort of severe compressive force directed at the neck, either through stamping or kicking of kneeling on the front of the neck.

"I have never seen compression with this sort of damage to the neck in 25 years."

Dr Carter said there were ‘no stab wounds or incision wounds’ on Lindsay’s body and that it was ‘very difficult to see if there was any bruising’ because of the level of decomposition.

Under cross examination from defence barrister Mark Fenhalls QC, Dr Carter said she could not confirm that dark patches on Lindsay's arms were self defence injuries due to the levels of decomposition.

Dr Carter said she could also not date any possibly bruising on Lindsay's neck. The jury was told that it could have happened ‘moments before death or days before death’.

Dr Carter said the neck injuries were caused by ‘severe compressive force’ but couldn’t be more definitive.

Preston Crown Court

The jury were also read a statement from dog walker Morgan Parkinson who found Lindsay's body on the evening of August 24.

Mr Parkinson said his dog had run into the wooded area at Accrington Cemetery and he shouted for her to come back ‘three or four times’ but she didn't come out.

He said: "She had her head down in the bushes and was sniffing something. She was not paying attention to me when I shouted her name.

"I walked further forward and stood on something soft and squishy. I immediately jumped back and grabbed my dog by the collar.

"I then smelt a horrible smell and it smelt rotten. I could see plastic and what looked like a leg."

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Lindsay Birbeck murder trial

Mr Parkinson said he called the police on 101 at 7.23pm to report the finding but 'couldn't get through'.

When his partner Sarah arrived at the scene he called 999 at 7.42pm.

The jury were told that PC Robyn Say attended the cemetery at around 8pm and was led to the area by Mr Parkinson.

In her statement, she said: "What I saw was a shallow ditch with a mound of soil in the middle.

"It looked artificially obscured using undergrowth.

"There was a section that had been disturbed by Mr Parkinson's dog.

"Under this was plastic and I could see what looked like pale skin."

Police investigation at Accrington Cemetery on Sunday, August 25, 2019

On Friday afternoon the jury were told about DNA recovered from the wheelie bin used to move her body and a pair of gloves found near her grave.

A forensic examination of the bin was carried out by Helen Jones and areas of 'blood staining' were found inside along with 'dark hairs'.

DNA taken from a blood swab was 'more than one billion times more likely to have originated from Lindsay Birbeck than from another individual unrelated to her', the court heard.

A pair of gloves recovered from the cemetery also matched the defendant's DNA on the inner surfaces, the jury was told.

Lindsay's DNA was also found on hair and a blood 'swab' from the outer surface of the left hand glove.

A forensic scientist who attended Hillock Vale said he found a pair of 'parallel lines on a concrete plinth' near a wire fence that leads to the footpath.

The jury were told that these were 'typical with tyre marks a distance of 52cm apart' - the same distance between the wheels of the bin recovered from Accrington Cemetery.

Six 'faint blue lines' were also found near to the brick edge of the plinth and contained 'blue plastic fragments'.

In a statement the forensic scientist said the marks on the concrete plinth 'could be explained by a wheelie bin being dragged'.

The court heard that a sample of plastic fragment was examined and compared to the recovered bin in the cemetery. Both were 'microscopically indistinguishable in terms of colour and appearance'.

Two separate pieces of blue plastic were also recovered from a brick fitted to the 'extreme edge of the plinth'.

The forensic scientist said these were 'typical of having been produced by a gouging or scooping action'.

Concluding his statement, he said: "The position of the six blue lines and the plastic fragments next to the edge of the plinths suggest that a blue wheelie bin was put onto its back before being lowered off the plinth to ground level which is a distance of around 34cm.

"Such an action tends to suggest that the bin and contents must have been too heavy to simply lower the bin straight off the plinth and onto the ground."

An examination of the bin in the cemetery revealed a number of 'deep scratches and gouges to the outside'.

The trial, which is expected to last up to three weeks, will not sit on Monday, March 2, and will resume at 10.30am on Tuesday, March 3.

Proceeding

Coverage will continue here each day.

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