Court Told Man Was Abused and Murdered by Gang

A court's heard a vulnerable father of two was tortured and murdered by four people he called friends in North Shields.

45-year-old Jimmy Prout was subjected to months of "Dark Ages'' abuse by the group before they dumped his body on wasteland, a jury was told.

Ann Corbett, 26, Zahid Zaman, 43, Myra Wood, 50, and Kay Rayworth, 56, deny murdering him and causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable adult.

They have all pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice.

The jury at Newcastle Crown Court heard the group of five had a strange relationship which had developed an almost ``cultish dimension''.

It is alleged a series of events in late 2015 created tensions which led to a number of serious assaults against Mr Prout, which included him having his teeth knocked out with a hammer and chisel.

Paul Greaney QC, prosecuting, said: 

"In effect, over a period of time, Jimmy Prout was not just mistreated, he was tortured. The prosecution case is that the four defendants took part in that violence against Jimmy Prout, either inflicting injuries directly or assisting or encouraging the other members of the group to do so. In the end, this conduct was to cause the death of Jimmy Prout.''

Mr Greaney said the evidence suggested Mr Prout died on February 9 2016, and his body was dumped on wasteland 100 metres from his home. 

The group then allegedly set about covering their tracks as well as fleecing his bank account, asking people if they had seen Mr Prout as they pretended to look for him.

Eventually on March 25, the police received a call from Zaman in which he claimed Corbett had attacked him and killed Mr Prout, in an attempt to ``throw her to the wolves''.

On attending 35 St Stephen's Way, North Tyneside, officers found Zaman, Rayworth and Wood, who claimed to have letters written by Corbett confessing to the murder.

Mr Greaney told jurors it was ``pure theatre'' and invention because they all knew Mr Prout had been dead for more than six weeks.

The court heard Mr Prout was the sixth of eight children and lived a simple life, fathering two children, and was liked by the people who knew him.

He started to live as a tenant at 75 St Stephen's Way, which was owned by Rayworth, and he soon became integrated into the group.

Zaman and Rayworth lived at number 35, having at one stage been partners, but Zaman had since become involved with Wood, who along with Corbett also lived at number 75.

Tensions arose when Zaman believed Mr Prout had played some part in a theft committed by Corbett's brother Ivan.

"He was not able to get Ivan Corbett, who had moved away, and so Jimmy Prout became an easy target,'' said Mr Greaney.

Zaman, who uses a wheelchair, was described as vengeful and controlling and was determined to get his own back.

Mr Greaney said: 

"The group considered that Jimmy Prout deserved punishment and the punishment he received was brutal in nature. He was repeatedly assaulted and subjected to dreadful indignities. In fact, we do not understand the defendants to deny that this is so. They accept that Jimmy Prout was assaulted, but each of them wishes to reduce his or her own involvement in events, seeking to blame one or more of the others. In truth they were in it together.''

Mr Greaney told the jury that the fact Zaman was in a wheelchair would not have prevented him from assaulting Mr Prout:

"The evidence runs entirely contrary to any such conclusion. You will hear from witnesses who saw Zaman walking and otherwise demonstrating himself to be physically capable, even to the extent of carrying out assaults.''

He said Zaman was the group's leader and controlling voice and the violence would not have taken place without his ``encouragement and participation''.

The court was shown various clips of CCTV, displaying the deterioration in Mr Prout's health as the abuse began.

Footage from October 18, 2015, shows him walking and jogging. But the next clip from February 5, 2016, showed him staggering along being pushed by Ann Corbett, before slumping on a fence.

Lastly the jury saw footage from February 6 at 9.47pm, where all four defendants are seen with Mr Prout. He was in a ``dreadful condition'', supported by Corbett and Rayworth, as they walked him to number 75.

That was the last time he was seen on any footage and it is alleged he remained there until his death on February 9.

The case continues.

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