A SECOND defendant has given a jury his account of what happened on the night vulnerable Gemma Hayter was brutally killed on a disused Rugby railway line.
Giving evidence at Warwick Crown Court, Daniel Newstead accepted hitting Gemma in the face twice at his flat, but denied using any other violence towards her.
Newstead, 20, and his partner Chantelle Booth, 22, 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.
As the trial entered its fifth week, Newstead went into the witness box to answer questions from his barrister Francis Laird QC.
Newstead said he and Booth were at their home where they had had dinner with the other defendants when Gemma arrived and went into the kitchen.
A £5 note was later found tucked behind the fridge, and it was believed it had been taken from the living room and put there by Gemma who he said had previously stolen £800 from Booth.
He said he challenged Gemma about it and asked her if she had put it their planning to seal it if no-one noticed it was missing, which she denied.
Asked if that led to violence, Newstead said: “Yes. The first thing was her being hit with pillows. Duncan was one of them, but I don’t know if it was Joe who was the other one.”
He was asked by Mr Laird if the violence escalated, and replied: “It did; her being punched, slapped and kicked.”
Asked what each of the defendants did, Newstead said Edwards was ‘kicking, punching, slapping’ Gemma; the only thing he could remember Boyer doing was punching her in the face; and he believed Lynas hit her over the head with a broom handle.
He said as far as he knew Booth did nothing, and she and Lynas then left to get cigarettes, and he also went outside.
Asked if there was any blood visible on Gemma when he left, he answered: “Not that I was aware of.”
Outside he saw Laura Rowley and asked her to go up to the flat to see what had happened, and he went to meet ‘the two girls’ before Booth went into the flat followed by him and Laura.
Mr Laird asked him: “When you left you said there was no blood. Had the picture changed?”
Newstead replied: “Yes. It looked like she had a broken nose. She was trying to stem the flow of blood with some sort of cloth. There was blood everywhere. There was blood on the blow-up mattress and there was blood on the carpet.”
He said that up until then he had not been involved in any violence towards Gemma, but he then became angry and struck her twice to the side of her head with his closed hand.
Asked why, if he had not hit her before, he had hit her then, he explained: “Because of the state the bedroom was in.”
There was no more violence in the flat after that, he said, and after Gemma had cleaned herself up the five of them left with her to walk her back to her home in Biart Place.
He accepted they were wearing hoodies with the hoods up, but said: “It’s natural for me to do that.”
They took a route past Rugby School and into Hillmorton Road, where he said he expected they would take a side street through to Clifton Road, but with Boyer and Lynas in front, they continued on to the Total garage near the disused railway line.
He said he was the first to go down onto the railway line because he wanted to find somewhere to go to the toilet, and had not expected the others to follow.
But after getting down to the line and turning left, he saw the others come down and turn right, which surprised him, and he caught them up and asked why they were going that way.
The group was spread out, and Newstead said he ‘walked beyond Chantelle, Gemma and Duncan, and caught up Joe and Jess.’
Asked what happened next, he said: “I heard screaming. I turned round. Duncan was with Gemma and Chantelle was walking towards me. Gemma was on the ground with her legs sticking up. Duncan was near her. They were ten or 20 yards away from me.
“Then I heard Gemma say her nose was bleeding again. She got up and walked past me and stumbled again to the floor.
“Then he came up behind her, and I think he dragged her across the floor for four or five paces. Then all I know is her top clothing come off. I think Duncan was there, and Joe was stood to the side of them. Chantelle was crying.
“Then Gemma sat up, and I think she took her t-shirt top off, and Duncan told her ‘What are you doing? Get back on the floor,’ or something like that.
“The next thing I know Duncan has got hold of the top and put it round her neck and pulled it tight.
“Afterwards I seen Duncan lean forward, but I’m not sure what he did, and then he turned to Joe and used his phone as a light and said ‘Look at all the blood running down her neck.’”
It has been alleged Edwards stabbed Gemma, but Newstead said he did not see that, adding: “All I am aware is that then he stamped on her head, and that’s it.”
Newstead said they moved away from Gemma and Edwards used a lighter to set fire to her clothes, during which Edwards’ hair was singed when an aerosol can exploded.
He said as they walked back to the flats, he and Booth, who was sick, lagged behind and discussed calling the police.
“I said we need to go to the police and tell them what’s happened. She agreed with me, but she sounded scared,” he said, but he accepted no call was made. The trial continues.