A 16-YEAR-OLD girl's body was burned in what appeared to be a makeshift bonfire after she was killed, a court heard today.
Shane Mays, 30, is accused of the killing of Louise Smith whose fire-damaged body was found in thick woodland two weeks after she went missing.
Martin Crookes, a forensic scientist, told the court today how charred sticks and twigs appeared to have been arranged on top of the teenager's body.
He told Winchester Crown Court it was "quite a challenge" to destroy a human body in a fire and said in his opinion it was "highly likely" an accelerant was used.
Mr Crookes, who is an expert in fire damage, said: "One possibility was that the sticks were originally stacked on top of the body like a bonfire in order to aid the combustion process.
"There was one stick toward the head which was heavily charred and burned but then had a clean break at the end indicating it had been broken in the fire.
"In order to get a body to combust and ignite successfully is quite a challenge."
Mr Crookes said it seemed as though the branches on the ground had also been used to surround the body to add "fuel to the fire".
He told the court no fire damage was found on the clothes of Mays or his wife.
He also said he did not find any petrol, or other flammable substance on Louise's body, or clothes.
He added this was expected given that the body may have been there almost two weeks before it was discovered.
Mr Crookes also he wasn't able to determine what a lump of metal found near the body was - but said he could not rule out if it was a mobile phone.
Earlier, the court heard Louise had "catastrophic injuries" which if inflicted before she died would have caused "overwhelming pain".
Jurors were told that Louise had injuries which suggested she had been beaten with a '"log or a large branch" while already "immobile".
The aspiring veterinary nurse, who only started living with Mays and his wife CJ a few weeks before, was found with her skull smashed on May 21.
In a statement read out to court today, PC Abi Biddulph, who found Louise in the dense woodland, said: “The body was quite clearly female and was very petite, her skin colour was white and you could see that she had been burnt.
“The front of her torso was black and so were parts around her. It was like her body had been torched. The body was laid on the floor with her back on the floor with her arms bent and her legs bent.
“I also noticed that the body still had socks on, these socks were black with green toe and heel bits."
Home Office pathologist Dr Basil Purdue carried out a post-mortem but said Louise's body was 'severely decomposed' due to the length of time it lay undiscovered.
He said that due to the state of the body, which had also been badly burned using some sort of "accelerant", he could not give an exact cause of death.
Dr Purdue told the court there were signs of "catastrophic injuries, severe blood loss and potentially a copious inhalation of blood" possibly caused by a "log" or large branch.
The pathologist said today the teen had been struck with such force her jaw had been dislocated and fractured.
Dr Purdue said: "The force of the blows could have rendered her unconscious or killed her, if life and consciousness remained at the time.
"These would have bled catastrophically if inflicted during life…
"It is likely she was immobile at the time of the infliction of injuries [to her face] as they were all in one area.
"The first blow might have knocked her unconscious and that would have provided a fixed target."
Earlier, the court heard that Mays knew the area of Havant Thicket where Louise was found and had made bonfires in the woods there as a teenager while camping with friends.
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Mays denies murder but admits manslaughter, claiming he attacked Louise with a series of punches after he "lost his temper" during an argument.
Mays claims he did not defile or set fire to Louise.
The trial continues.