South Shields garage boss told police he had nothing to do with discovery of Sunderland man in shallow grave, hears court

The case is being heard at Newcastle Crown Court.
The case is being heard at Newcastle Crown Court.

A garage boss initially denied that he had anything to do with one of his employees being found in a shallow grave, a murder trial was told.

Darren Bonner’s naked body was found in a dug out hole in woodland near the shore road between Lynemouth and Cresswell, Northumberland, on July 10 last year.

The Sunderland man was taken to hospital but died 16 days later after suffering irreversible brain damage due to his brain being starved of oxygen and blood.

Although Richard Spottiswood, 34, of Canterbury Way, Jarrow, has admitted in a statement that he got Mr Bonner in a headlock during an argument, he denies murder, saying that he acted in self-defence.

Earlier in the trial at Newcastle Crown Court, Timothy Roberts, prosecuting, said the defendant initially denied that any physical altercation had taken place.

The police interviews with Spottiswood in the days following his arrest for what was at that stage an allegation of attempted murder were read out to the jury on Friday.

Spottiswood went through his account of what happened during the family trip to Cresswell Towers Holiday Park, as well as how he met and then subsequently employed Mr Bonner.

The prosecution went through the transcripts of the interviews with police.

Spottiswood said he first spoke with Mr Bonner when he responded to a notice that the 24-year-old had put on the Gumtree website.

When he went to an address in Sunderland to get the items, Mr Bonner said he had worked with cars and knew Spottiswood ran a garage in South Shields. He asked if he could work there if there were any jobs going.

Spottiswood said he gave him some work when he "needed extra hands" and because "he had quite a collection of clothes, he just didn’t have a house".

Mr Bonner would sometimes stay in the garage overnight, the court heard.

The jury was also told that on the evening of Friday, July 7, the first night of the trip, Mr Bonner called Spottiswood and asked if he could also stay at the caravan that was booked for three nights.

Spottiswood agreed to pick him up from the Ashington area.

They went back to South Tyneside a few times over the weekend of July 8 and 9 to pick up and drop off children. In the caravan, Mr Bonner slept on the couch on the Saturday and Sunday.

They were at a club in the holiday park on the Sunday evening and they both drank alcohol although "there was no argument or disagreement".

The court heard Spottiswood told the interviewing officers when he woke up on the Monday morning that Mr Bonner had gone and this was normal behaviour from him.

When questioned about how Mr Bonner was found naked in a shallow grave, Spottiswood then said: "I don’t know anything about that hole."

The case for the defence will take place in the second week of the trial, which resumes on Monday.