A YOUNG woman has denied a suggestion that she and her boyfriend had inflicted the injuries which caused the death of vulnerable Gemma Hayter on a disused railway line.
Chantelle Booth, during questioned at Warwick Crown Court yesterday (Thursday), also denied that she and Daniel Newstead had earlier assaulted Gemma in their flat before she was brutally killed.
Booth, 22, and her partner Newstead, 20, together with another couple, Jessica Lynas, 19, and Joe Boyer, 18, all of Old Works Court, Little Pennington Street, Rugby, and Duncan Edwards, 19, of Ashwood Court, Rounds Gardens, Rugby, have pleaded not guilty to murdering 27-year-old Gemma.
They also deny assaulting Gemma, whose battered body was found on a disused railway line off Hillmorton Road on August 9 last year, in Booth and Newstead’s flat earlier that night.
Booth has blamed Edwards for the attack in the flat by hitting Gemma with a mop, punching and kicking her and smacking her face on a door handle, causing her nose to bleed heavily.
After they all set out to walk her home, they ended up going to the old line which Edwards said was the quickest way.
There she said she and Gemma were at the back when Edwards came up to them with a bin bag which he put over Gemma’s head as she screamed and tried to get it off.
“Then he started punching her and things in her head, and kicking her. She was screaming and telling him to get off.
“I tried to get him off her, but I couldn’t do anything. He dragged her to the grassy part. He was hitting her and hitting her, full-on.”
Booth said Edwards, who pulled off Gemma’s clothes and burned them, also stamped on her head ‘a couple of times’ at the end, but she was too scared to phone for help for Gemma.
Questioned by Francis Laird QC, for Newstead, Booth agreed the group had been angry with Gemma the previous night after she had told bar staff that Booth was under-age, but forgave her and invited her to her flat the next day.
Mr Laird suggested Newstead had left the flat after the violence from Edwards had begun, and Booth replied: “Yes, he was having a fag. He couldn’t handle no more.”
She said she could not recall whether that was before blood began pouring from Gemma’s nose, but when it was put to her that he was outside at the time, she said: “Probably, yes.”
Gemma then asked Edwards, who Booth said had caused the injuries, to walk her home, and asked if she found that puzzling, Booth responded: “I found it weird.”
Mr Laird put to Booth that on the railway line they were ‘not a tight-knit group,’ and that Boyer and Lynas were ahead, closely followed by Newstead, with her, Gemma and Edwards some way behind – and she agreed.
He said the violence began in that group when Edwards began to attack Gemma while the others were some way ahead and that he pushed Booth away when she tried to get between them.
“The group at the front turned back. I suggest Daniel Newstead at this stage was trying to prevent you from further getting involved with Duncan,” said Mr Laird.
Booth replied: “Yes. He’s my boyfriend at the end of the day. He was trying to keep me away from it.”
And she agreed when Mr Laird put to her: “The events simply unfolded in front of you.”
She also agreed she and Newstead had discussed phoning the police afterwards, but she was frightened because Edwards had threatened she would ‘get the same’ if she did so.
Mr Laird asked if, on the Tuesday after the killing, she and Newstead had discussed going to the police and intended to do so that afternoon, but were arrested in the late morning, and Booth replied: “Yes.”
But Mark Wall QC, for Edwards, put to Booth that she was the one who had cause to be angry with Gemma for stealing £800 in backdated child benefit two years earlier and only repaying £15 of it after admitting the theft.
She said she was ‘more upset than angry,’ but then accepted that when she asked Gemma for some money in the flat and was told she did not have any, ‘I was angry, yes.’
Booth said she had not told Edwards about the money, but that Newstead may have told him, and she said it was then that Edwards began assaulting Gemma - but Mr Wall put to her: “You were the one who was getting more and more angry with her.”
He suggested there were other reasons Booth was angry with Gemma, who she also believed had stolen some milk tokens and was trying to steal a £5 note that night.
After referring to a previous conviction when Booth punched and kicked a woman and wounded her by hitting her over the head with a wall mirror, Mr Wall suggested that showed the sort of thing she did when she was angry.
Of the two attacks on Gemma, he put to her: “The picture you have painted is of one man being responsible for almost all of the violence, and the four of you having little or no involvement in what is going on.” Booth replied: “Yes.”
Mr Wall put to her that in fact it was she and Newstead who had attacked Gemma on the railway line, which she denied, and that apart from burning the clothes Edwards was not involved – which she also rejected.
Mr Wall: “She ended up dead. You did not manage either at the flat or at the railway line to summon the assistance of an ambulance for your dying friend.” Booth replied that was because she had been threatened by Edwards.
But Mr Wall pointed out that, in addition to ‘flirty’ texts they had exchanged earlier, on the Monday she had sent one addressing Edwards as ‘sexy boy.’
She said was because she was scared and wanted to be nice to him. The trial continues.