Defendants in Rotherham murder trial filmed with armfuls of items taken from victim's flat day after fatal lay-by attack

Jurors in the murder trial of a 34-year-old Rotherham man, Craig Preston, who was beat to death in a lay-by were this morning shown CCTV footage of three of the defendants with armfuls of belongings believed to have been taken from his flat less than 24-hours after he was killed.
Jurors in the murder trial of a 34-year-old Rotherham man, Craig Preston, who was beat to death in a lay-by were this morning shown CCTV footage of three of the defendants with armfuls of belongings believed to have been taken from his flat less than 24-hours after he was killed.

Jurors in the murder trial of a 34-year-old Rotherham man beat to death in a lay-by were this morning shown CCTV footage of three of the defendants with armfuls of belongings believed to have been taken from his flat less than 24-hours after he was killed.

The CCTV footage used in evidence before Sheffield Crown Court today spanned from the hours leading up to the death of 34-year-old Craig Preston around midnight on August 22 last year, to August 24.

During the afternoon of August 21, footage showed Mr Preston leaving and returning to his flat in Montgomery Square, Wath-upon-Dearne, Rotherham a number of times accompanied by Leonie Mason, 23, - his on-and-off-again girlfriend and one of the five people alleged to have murdered him. The pair, who previously lived in the flat together, left and returned in a silver Vauxhall Astra each time.

The court was previously told how Mason had been the girlfriend of Mr Preston for around seven or eight years by the time she struck up a sexual relationship with Shiraz Bashir, 41, in early 2016.

It is alleged that at the height of their relationship both Mason and Bashir had begun to want to 'do Preston in', and by August last year the Crown say the couple had recruited a group of at least three 15-year-old boys, none of whom can be named for legal reasons, to help them with their murderous plan.

At around 10.50pm on the night of Mr Preston's murder, Mason drove to Tesco Express in Wortley Road, Rotherham with Mr Preston and two of the three teen defendants - Boy A and Boy B in the Vauxhall Astra.

CCTV from the store shows Mason visiting the store with Boy A, and attempting to buy spirits which was refused due to the shop assistant recognising that Boy A was under-age.

Footage of Bashir's red Toyota Celica, which had a personalised number plate of H4 CUM, was shown driving past the lay-by in Town Lane, Rotherham at around 11.34pm - a matter of minutes before the murder is alleged to have taken place in the same lay-by at midnight.

The Crown say that after the murder, which they claim Mason, Bashir and the three teens played equal roles in, Mr Preston's body was put into the boot of the Astra before it was disposed of near to the Woodhead Pass. Dog walkers discovered his body close to the Woodhead Pass on the morning of August 22.

The first lot of CCTV footage of the group captured after the time of murder shown to the jury captured the Astra travelling along Scholes Lane at around 1.24am on August 22. At 2.34am Bashir's Celica visited McDonald's in Aldwarke Lane, Rotherham.

It makes a stop at Asda, also in Aldwarke Lane, where Mason is seen attempting to fill the car up with petrol; before travelling to the Rotherham address of Boy A's girlfriend, where Boy A exited the vehicle.

Mason and Bashir, both wearing hoodies with the former in a maroon coloured one and the latter in a black one, are then seen exiting the Celica in the car park of their address in Holme Park Court, Huddersfield at around 4am. Footage then shows the couple making their way into the lift in the flat complex where Bashir appears to be looking at the front and back of his trousers in the lift mirror.

Bashir's attention then seems to turn to the trousers worn by Mason, who at the same time appears to be inspecting her finger nails.

Just after 7.30pm on the evening of August 22, CCTV footage captured Mason driving up to the car park of Mr Preston's flat block with Boy A and his girlfriend, who also cannot be named for legal reasons. The footage then shows Boy A and his girlfriend carrying armfuls of items and putting them into the Astra, which Mason had driven closer to the entrance of the flat block by that point.

At 10.10pm, Mason, still wearing the maroon hoodie, is then captured returning to her Huddersfield home with Bashir, and both are carrying armfuls of items believed to have come from Mr Preston's flat. It is not clear whether the items belonged to Mason or Mr Preston.

Around 15 minutes later Mason takes a bag of clothes down to the laundry room at the flat complex, and is filmed emptying the bag of clothes into a washing machine there before taking off the maroon hoodie she was wearing and adding it to the washing load.

'Revealing' footage from CCTV filmed at Mason and Bashir's flat block the next day, shows the couple entering the lift with 15-year-old Boy A and his girlfriend, along with two other teenagers who also cannot be named for legal reasons.

During the opening of the trial, prosecutor Daffyd Enoch said of the footage: "The lift camera is clear and revealing. They were all very happy and smiling.

"Bear in mind this is less than 48 hours after they had been involved in the killing. During the sequence you see Mason and Boy A getting tactile and when they get out Boy A deliberately hangs back and Mason waits for him.

"As she emerges they kiss briefly. A friendly kiss it may well have been I suppose but these people are in all this together are they not?

"Nobody is traumatised. Nobody was forced against their will to do something terrible."

Mason, Bashir and the three 15-year-old male defendants face one count of murder, which all five deny.

The trial continues.