Rotherham murder victim's drug deal completed by woman accused of killing him on night of fatal beating, court told

The body of Craig Preston, 34, was found near to the Woodhead Tunnels on August 22 last year.
The body of Craig Preston, 34, was found near to the Woodhead Tunnels on August 22 last year.

A drug deal set up by a man beat to death in a Rotherham lay-by was completed hours after his murder by a woman accused of killing him, a court heard.

Sheffield Crown Court was told how during the course of August 21 last year, Craig Preston, who was also known as Craig Nelson, set up a drug deal to sell an amount of heroin and crack cocaine to a regular Rotherham customer by the name of Kieran Applegate.

Giving evidence in Sheffield Crown Court this morning, Mr Applegate told the court that Mr Preston, of Montgomery Court, Wath-upon-Dearne agreed to come and drop the drugs off to him just before midnight.

But two hours later, Mr Preston still had not delivered the drugs or contacted him, which Mr Applegate told the court was strange as he was always ‘very quick’ at completing a deal.

Prosecutor Daffyd Enoch told the court how Mr Applegate received a call from Leonie Mason, 23, one of the five defendants accused of murdering Mr Preston, at around 2.18am.

Mr Applegate said: “She was saying she was the other side of Sheffield, and wouldn’t be long.

“[When she arrived] she was rushing. It was odd. She had pyjamas or a onesie or something on. I thought it was really strange because Craig wasn’t there and they were always, always together.”

Around eight hours later Mr Preston's body was found by dog walkers, lying face down at the bottom of an embankment on the edge of the river Ethrow, near to the Woodhead Tunnels.

The court was told how Mr Preston was found with his trousers and underwear around his ankles.

Mr Applegate also told the court how Mr Preston had confided in him about an incident in which Mason had attempted to stab him in the neck with a syringe a number of months before he was murdered.

During the opening of the trial last week, the court was told how Mason had been in a relationship with Mr Preston for around seven years, and ran a low-level drug dealing business together, at the time the 23-year-old struck up a sexual relationship with Shiraz Bashir, 41, in early 2016.

The Crown alleges that at the height of their relationship Mason and Bashir, both of Holme Park Court, Huddersfield, both came to want to ‘do Mr Preston in’ and began plotting to murder him.

By August last year they had recruited at least three 15-year-old boys, who cannot be named for legal reasons, to help them with the murder, it is alleged.

Shortly after midnight on August 22 last year it is alleged all five members of the group played equal roles in beating Mr Preston to death in a lay-by near to Town Lane, Rotherham.

All five defendants deny one charge of murder.

The trial continues.