A murder trial heard how Wigan dad Liam Smith was ‘shot in the face’ and attacked with acid by the boyfriend of a woman he had a ‘one-night stand’ with.
Liam Smith, 38, was lured out of his home on Kilburn Drive, in Shevington, and blasted at close range with a gun by Michael Hillier, 39, who then poured corrosive liquid – thought to be sulphuric acid – on his face and body, burning away his flesh, a jury at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester heard yesterday (Tuesday, July 11th).
Mr Smith, a father-of-two, was left for dead in the street just steps away from his home with the chemicals still ‘fizzing’ on his body when he was found in the early evening of November 24th 2022.
The court was told how Mr Smith, an electrician, had had a ‘brief liaison’ with Hillier’s co-accused and former nail technician Rachel Fulstow, 37, who ‘encouraged’ and ‘assisted’ the attack, prosecutors allege.
The next year Fulstow became the girlfriend of Hillier, from Sheffield, with the latter not happy about the ‘one-night stand’ and having been ‘led to believe Fulstow had been raped’, opening prosecutor Jason Pitter KC, told the jury.
Hillier, from Ecclesall Road in Sheffield, has admitted killing Mr Smith after pleading guilty to manslaughter but both Hillier and Fulstow, from Andrew Drive in York, deny murder.
Mr Pitter told the jury the pair had planned the murder and Liam Smith was executed, saying: “Why do we say that? Well, having been drawn out of his house he was blasted, at probably close range, in the face with a shot from a gun.
“That was fatal, it penetrated his brain and would have brought him instantly to the ground.
“However the killer, dressed in a high visibility jacket with a head torch, did not stop there. He then proceeded to pour acid onto the face and body of Liam Smith, followed by soda crystals.
“The result was that his flesh burned away in those areas where the acid made contact with his skin.”
At Minshull Street Crown Court on Tuesday July 11th, Mr Smith’s family became tearful in the public gallery while CCTV footage from the attack was played to the jury, which included the sound of the gun being fired.
Mr Pitter told the jury Mr Smith and Fulstow had the ‘brief liaison’ at a York hotel in 2019 with Fulstow becoming the partner of Hillier the next year, allegedly sparking the murder plot.
He continued: “It appears that he was not happy about the fact of her having had a one night stand and was led to believe that she had been raped.
“We will wait to see what the precise motivation for the killing of Liam Smith was.
“One proper conclusion is that Liam Smith’s brief interaction with Fulstow was in a distorted and extreme way the cause for him being their target. In due course she was to go on to say that she believed that she had not consented to have sex with Liam Smith on that night in the hotel in York which she had booked.
“However, even if that is right, she had put it down to a, ‘misunderstanding’ of the situation between them and that she herself held no ill feeling to Liam Smith.
“It is factually relevant but does not need resolving as to what exactly happened between them. Liam Smith cannot answer for himself. In any event, it is shrouded in uncertainty, even on her version, and would never justify the extreme violence and murder of him.”
Mr Pitter said although Hillier alone carried out the attack, he was not solely responsible for Mr Smith’s death, and that Fulstow ‘played her part’ adding: “The culmination of a well-orchestrated and executed plot. That in effect is what happened to Liam Smith; he was executed.
“He was not working alone. The prosecution say that he was assisted in the organisation, preparation and execution of the attack by the first defendant, Rachel Fulstow, his then girlfriend.”
Jurors were told prosecution evidence includes CCTV and vehicle recognition footage, mobile telephone tracking and internet searches carried out by Fulstow before and after the murder.
“This could not have been a mere coincidence,” Mr Pitter said as he continued: “One conclusion is that attention within the relationship between the defendants was turning onto Liam Smith.
“That use of her telephone we say marks the first significant outward activity towards his killing by them.”
Jurors were told of how a week after the murder both defendants went on holiday for a fortnight to Jamaica. But detectives had managed to trace the Mitsubishi Shogun on false licence plates allegedly used by Hillier during the attack, leading to Hillier, then Fulstow, being arrested.
Both Fulstow and Hillier deny murder. Hillier has pleaded guilty to manslaughter, while Fulstow has pleaded not guilty to the same charge. She also denies a single count of perverting the course of justice.
The continuing trial, which began on Monday, is expected to last up to four weeks.
School bus overturns with motorway closed in both directions
Emergency services, including air ambulance, are in attendance
A coach carrying children from two separate schools has been left on its side following a crash on a major motorway this morning.
The school bus was carrying pupils from Calday Grange Grammar School and West Kirby School for Girls when the incident happened at around 8am on Friday, September 29th.
A section of the M53 has been closed off in both directions between J5 at Hooton, Cheshire, to J4 at Clatterbridge, in Merseyside. It is believed the bus had struck a reservation on Junction 5 of the motorway.
Calday Grange Grammar School released a statement on its social media page saying: “We are aware of a situation involving one of our school buses on the motorway earlier today.
“We’re actively gathering details and assisting affected students and their families.”
North West Ambulance Service has now declared a major incident, saying in a statement: “North West Ambulance Service has declared a major incident following a road traffic collision between a coach and a car on the M53 northbound at approximately 8.30 this morning.
“The trust dispatched a large number of resources to the scene, including ambulances, advances paramedics, our Hazardous Area Response team and a HEMS doctor.
“So far, one female patient has been taken to the hospital, suffering major trauma-related injuries. There are also nearly 50 other patietns being assessed at the scene. We are working closely with our incident partners to convey people away from the scene as quickly as possible.”
Local Councillor Sherin Akhtar, also confirmed the news and said she was ‘aware children are being taken to hospital as a precaution’.
She wrote in a Tweet: “I can confirm and am aware of an accident on the M53 this morning going towards the Wirral/ Birkenhead.
“It involves a Carvers coach ( W3) travelling to Calday Grange Grammar School and West Kirby Grammar school for girls.
“Whilst this is a live situation, I would like to assure residents that I am working on their behalf and offer support and will endeavour to update, as soon as possible. I am aware that children are being taken to Arrowe Park as precautionary.”
Merseyside Police said in a statement: “We can confirm that emergency services are on the M53 in Hooton following a collision involving a bus on the motorway.
“Just after 8am we received a report that a bus had struck a reservation on Junction 5 of the M53. Junctions 3-5 of the M53 are closed in both directions.
“Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service is currently ensuring the safe removal of passengers and the driver, and North West Ambulance Service are at the scene attending to anyone requiring treatment.
“Motorists are advised to avoid the area and find alternative routes, and we advise people to remain patient while the incident is ongoing. Enquiries are ongoing and updates will be issued as soon as possible.
“Please note this incident is ongoing and we are urging people to refrain from speculating or publishing any sensitive information that could be distressing online or via social media platforms.”
Tributes pour in after body of ‘lovely’ missing man found by police
People have been posting their tributes to Charlie online
Heartfelt tributes have been flooding in across social media platforms after the body of a 26-year-old man from Stockport was discovered by police.
Charlie Johnson, 26, was last seen at around 11.30pm in the Cheadle Hulme area of Stockport on Thursday, September 21st.
Greater Manchester Police launched an appeal to the public to help find him but sadly, officers confirmed they had discovered a body on Tuesday, September 26th during the search.
His next of kin have been informed and a file was passed on to the coroner.
Detective Inspector Michael Jimenez, of Greater Manchester Police, said: “Our thoughts remain with Charlie’s family at this difficult time, and we have specialist officers in place to support them. Thank you to those who shared our appeals.”
Following the tragic news, tributes have been paid online to honour the life of the ‘superb sportsman’ described by those who knew him as ‘a lovely lad’.
AFC Stockport, who Charlie briefly played for last season, posted on Facebook: “It is with sad news that today we say RIP to Charlie Johnson who briefly played for the club last season.
“Charlie netted 9 goals in 7 appearances for our Rangers team. RIP Charlie – Our thoughts are with your family and friends.”
And Bosden Farm FC, based in Stockport, wrote on their Twitter page: “It is with great sadness we report the news on the passing of Charlie he was a huge part of Bosden Farm and was loved by everyone who met him.
“We will miss him so much. We send our condolences to his friends and family and ask that you respect their privacy at this moment in time.”
Upon hearing the sad news, Mary Brooks-Davies wrote: “Heartbroken. Charlie was such a lovely lad, remember him well when he was at primary school with my daughter. Love and gentlest hugs to his family xxxx.”
In a tribute to Charlie, Badhrul Islam wrote: “Taught him as a lad. Can genuinely say none of my colleagues had a bad word to say.
“PE teachers remember him being a superb sportsman with a great attitude. Really well liked all round. Worked with his dad who was a thoroughly nice man. This is desperately sad news.”
Rachel Taylor wrote: “Thinking of all your family and friends at this sad time, RIP Charlie xx.”
And Callum Lawson wrote: “R.I.P Charlie.”
Three Wilko stores in Greater Manchester reopening as Poundland this weekend
Three out of the 10 stores set to reopen this weekend are in Greater Manchester
This weekend, three former Wilko stores will reopen as Poundlands in Greater Manchester.
Following the collapse of Wilko last month, 10 stores are set to reopen as Poundland outlets this weekend, after being bought out by the budget retailer.
Poundland owner Pepco agreed to purchase 71 Wilko stores from administrators PwC earlier this month.
The company plans to rebrand and open them under its own by the end of the year.
Another rival retailer, B&M, bought 51 Wilko stores in a deal of around £5 million, and plans to also reopen them under its own brand.
In Greater Manchester, the three Wilko locations which will be reopening as new Poundland sites are at The Mall on Church Street in Eccles, The Peel Centre, on Great Portwood Street in Stockport, and on Lord Street, in Leigh.
The seven other sites set to reopen this weekend are across Stafford, Nelson, Barking, Southport, Maidenhead, Jarrow and Scunthorpe.
Family-owned company Wilko ran 400 shops and employed around 12,500 staff when it brought in administrators PwC last month. The company, which was founded in 1930, folded under the pressure of cuts in consumer spending, due to the cost-of-living crisis, and debts owed to suppliers.
All Wilko stores will close resulting in thousands of staff redundancies, as its remaining shops shut on October 8th.
Poundland has encouraged Wilko staff to apply for new job roles with its chain and have assured them they will be made a priority.