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20 January 2011, 15:30
A 29-year-old man's been sent to jail for three and a half years, after digging a grave to bury a murder vicitim in.
Kieron O'Brien - of Peasecroft Road in Hemel Hempstead - admitted to perverting the course of justice and obstructing the coroner.
The digger driver created a hole at the side of the A421 bypass at Manor Farm in Bedfordshire - where the body of 43-year-old Zafar Khaliq was dumped. O'Brien then filled the hole back up.
O'Brien had been called upon by Wayne Grimes - who's 36 and from Bagenal Lane in Abbots Langley. Last week Grimes pleaded guilty to murdering Mr Khaliq on 10th July and to obstructing a coroner in the execution of his duty. He was jailed for life with a minimum sentence of 18 years.
St Albans Crown Court heard how O'Brien arranged to meet police at the site on July 21st last year, after the dead man had been reported missing. He said: "I am going to tell you the truth. I did no murder. I know where he is and I will show you where he is buried."
Prosecutor Ann Evans said:
"Mr O'Brien was known as a rubber duck driver. He operated a 360 degree excavator, which is a very big digger.
"Grimes pulled the body from the boot of the car and onto the foundations of the road. Mr O'Brien got into the digger and covered the body which had been buried by the side of the road near the Manor Farm bridge."
In police interviews O'Brien said he had behaved: "like an idiot." He said: "I should never have done it. I regret it."
Bozzie Sheffi, defending, said O'Brien felt "deep shame and horror." She said: "He is a hard-working, honest and reliable man. His fault was that he was easily led."
She said O'Brien's suffered "stress and flashbacks" about his involvement. Since his arrest his girlfriend had given birth, she said.
Jailing him Judge Stephen Gullick said:
"The body was placed in a hole you dug and you back-filled the hole. Your actions obstructed the coroner and covered up the most serious crime. What you did resulted in real grief for the bereaved."
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Ross from the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit led the investigation and said:
"Kieran O'Brien was helping Zafar's murderer cover up what he had done and I am pleased the seriousness of this crime has been recognised with a prison sentence. Our thoughts remain with Zafar's family at this time and I hope today's result, which draws this case to its conclusion, will help them to rebuild their lives."