Boy, 15, hit Rotherham murder victim because co-defendant threatened to kill him, court told

Craig Preston's body was found by dog walkers near to the Woodhead Pass on the morning of August 22, 2016.
Craig Preston's body was found by dog walkers near to the Woodhead Pass on the morning of August 22, 2016.

A 15-year-old Rotherham boy accused of murder told a friend he hit the victim over the head three times because one of his co-defendants threatened to murder him and his girlfriend if he refused, a court has heard.

Sheffield Crown Court was told how 15-year-old Boy A, who cannot be named for legal reasons, confided in a teenage friend telling her he hit Craig Preston over the head three times with his hands during a fatal attack on the 34-year-old in a lay-by off Town Lane, Rotherham on August 21 last year.

Boy A is accused of murdering Mr Preston, of Wath-upon-Dearne along with Leonie Mason, 23 and Shiraz Bashir, 41, both of Holme Park and two other 15-year-old boys, who also cannot be named for legal reasons.

Cross-examining Boy A's friend, who also cannot be named for legal reasons, the boy's barrister, Aftab Jafferjee went over things the girl told police when she was interviewed in August last year.

Mr Jafferjee said: "He [Boy A] told you that Shiraz had said to him that if he did not hurt Craig he was going to kill him and his girlfriend and anyone else.

"So what he was telling you was that he was forced to hit Craig by Shiraz. And after that he hit Craig and ran off?"

The girl replied by saying 'yes'.

The court was also told how six days after Mr Preston was murdered on August 27, Boy A told the girl he was worried his involvement in the incident would affect her opinion of him.

Mr Jafferjee said to the girl: "Do you remember him [Boy A] saying he didn't want you to disown him, and think he's a bad person? He was crying and said he was sorry and was going to get in trouble."

The girl told Mr Jafferjee that account of events was accurate.

On opening the case at Sheffield Crown Court last month, prosecutor Daffyd Enoch told the court it was the Crown's case that all five defendants 'readily' played an equal role in the murder of Mr Preston.

He explained how Mason had been the girlfriend of Mr Preston for around six or seven years, when she struck up a sexual relationship with Bashir in March last year.

By August last year the couple spoke about wanting 'do him in' over the chat function on Skype. They then recruited three 15-year-old boys to help them with their murderous plan, it is alleged.

Craig Preston's body was found by dog walkers near to the Woodhead Pass on the morning of August 22, 2016.

All five defendants deny one charge of murder.

The trial continues.