Couple accused of killing man in Rotherham lay-by finalised details of murderous plan over text message

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.

Two people accused of killing a Rotherham man in a lay-by finalised the details of their murderous plan via text message, a court has heard.

Craig Preston was fatally attacked in a lay-by in Town Lane, Rotherham in the early hours of August 22 last year.

Mr Preston’s on-and-off-again girlfriend Leonie Mason, 23, along with her new lover Shiraz Bashir are two of five people accused of his murder.

Sheffield Crown Court was told how on the day before the murder, Bashir, aged 41, sent Mason a message saying: “You know you have two days left to kill him.”

Cross-examining Mason, prosecutor Daffyd Enoch said: “There’s no room for misinterpretation there, there’s no room for trying to work out what that means."

Mason responded by saying: "I thought that meant he wanted to beat him up.

Mr Enoch continued: "Why did you think 'you have two days left to kill him' meant beat him up?"

Mason said: "Because he was always saying stuff like that, I didn't take it seriously."

Three 15-year-old boys, who cannot be named for legal reasons, are also standing trial for Mr Preston’s murder.

In another text message sent on August 20 last year, the role Mason and Bashir, both of Holme Park Court, Huddersfield, had in mind for one of the boys, Boy A, was seemingly revealed.

The message from Bashir to Mason said: “You need to be with Boy A tonight if you can. He’s gonna knock Craig out and tie him up with tie wraps.”

Mr Enoch said of the message: "That's as clear as it can be."

Mason claimed she did not believe Bashir was serious, and said she thought he was using the message as a way of 'bigging himself up'.

Later that day, the court was told how Mason sent Bashir a message saying: "I know Boy A is going to f*** it up. He [Craig] is going to run."

When asked about the meaning of that message, Mason told jurors: "I was making an excuse because I didn't want this to happen."

Mr Enoch replied: "You were worried that Boy A would make a mistake, and Craig would get away like he had before."

Mason denied this.

Another message sent from Bashir to Mason on August 20 last year read: "Get Boy B involved with Boy A, and they will both get him [Craig] and bang him out.

"We'll get those lot to keep him there, he won't run if we've got numbers."

Mason told the court she had split up with Bashir on August 19, and had went back to Craig on the same day to resume their relationship because she 'loved him'.

When asked why she was continuing to communicate with Bashir via text message after the split she said: "Because I wanted to keep the peace."

Mr Enoch told Mason: "You didn't go back to Craig [because you loved him], you had gone back as a device to get him out on the 21st."

Mason said: "No, not at all."

And when questioned about why she appeared to be agreeing to the plan to attack Mr Preston, despite splitting with Bashir and resuming her relationship with Mr Preston, Mason repeated: "I was making excuses, I was saying anything, because I didn't want this to happen."

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

Mason, Bashir, and three teenage boys all deny one charge of murder.

The trial continues.

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