Garage boss 'thought employee was faking it' when he stopped breathing after headlock, murder trial told

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A garage boss has told murder jurors he thought his employee was "faking it" when he appeared to stop breathing after a "20-second" headlock.

Richard Spottiswood is accused of deliberately killing Darren Bonner during a family holiday at Cresswell Caravan park in Northumberland last July.

Mr Bonner was naked and unresponsive when officers found him in a shallow grave, hidden behind a dry-stone wall at nearby Shore Road, after being alerted by a passer-by about suspicious noises.

The 24-year-old, from Sunderland, died in hospital 16 days after his fatally injured body was found, without ever regaining consciousness.

Spottiswood, of Canterbury Way, Jarrow, South Tyneside, denies murder and is being tried by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court.

The 34-year-old was in the witness box today, and appeared to become upset when he told jurors he had only intended to "calm down" Mr Bonner during a row and had not wanted to hurt him.

Spottiswood told the court Mr Bonner, who worked for him at his garage business and helped him grow cannabis crops in flats, had joined him on family caravan park holiday that weekend said they had had a "mint" time with plenty of fun and laughter.

He said the fatal argument flared during an early-hours trip during darkness, to a hole Mr Bonner had already dug to bury firearms in, which he was involved in dealing.

Spottiswood said he himself had no part in handling or selling firearms but had gone with Mr Bonner, who was involved in trading the illegal weapons, as he was "off his head" after drinking and taking cocaine and didn't want him causing any "bother".

He said when they reached the remote site a disagreement flared and he started to suspect Mr Bonner had been "spying" on him for a rival dealer.

Spottiswood told the jury: "I said I wanted him out of the garage, pack his stuff and that was the end of it.

"He got quite angry, he said he wasn't walking away with nothing. I told him he would get what he was owed but I wanted him out and I didn't want to see him, I told him I thought he was playing both sides."

Spottiswood said Mr Bonner reacted "angrily" and tried to grab for the bag of firearms.

He told jurors he was hit in the face with the handle of a spade Mr Bonner was carrying when the men started to struggle, which he believed was unintentional.

But he added: "I put him in a headlock straight away.

"He kicked right off, he dropped the bag, dropped the spade, tried to pull my arm off, started trying to back-heal me, he went off it.

"He was telling me to get off and all the rest of it and I was trying to tell him to calm down and he just wouldn't.

"I didn't want him to have the bag in the first place because of what was in it and the state he was in."

Spottiswood said they both fell backwards and Mr Bonner suddenly "went heavy".

He added: "It was only about 20 seconds, I thought he was faking it, when he went heavy and I let go of him. I thought he was just faking it.

"I just wanted him to calm down.

"It wasn't about hurting him, it was about calming him down."

Spottiswood said Mr Bonner was "like a dead weight" when he lowered him, face down, onto the ground, while telling him to "get up".

He added: "I got my phone out, we were in a bush, it was pitch-black and his face was just a weird colour, it was like a blue and white and his tongue had swelled up.

"He was just dead, he looked dead. I opened his eyes and there was nothing happening. He wasn't doing
anything."

Spottiswood said he removed Mr Bonner's shorts, shoes and socks, which was all he had been wearing, because he thought his blood may be on them from the spade injury.

He added: "He was just lying there, he looked dead. I thought I had broken his neck."

Spottiswood said he had not tried to break Mr Bonner's neck or deliberately hurt him and added: "I just had a hold of him, it was mad how it happened, mad, I just had a hold of him."

He added: "He wasn't breathing. I thought he was dead."

Spottiswood denies murder. The trial continues.