A boy accused of murdering a teaching assistant and leaving her in a wheelie bin has claimed he was offered “a lot of money” by a stranger to move her body.
The naked body of 47-year-old Lindsay Birbeck was found wrapped in two plastic bags in a shallow grave at the back of Accrington Cemetery, Lancashire, on 24 August last year.
The mother-of-two had left her home in Burnley Road, Accrington, 12 days earlier for a walk to a nearby area of woodland known as the Coppice, Preston Crown Court heard.
The 17-year-old defendant – who cannot be named for legal reasons – is accused of killing Mrs Birbeck shortly after she entered the Coppice, then hiding her body in a blue wheelie bin which he dragged to the cemetery five days later.
After she was discovered, police released a CCTV image of a male pulling a wheelie bin along Burnley Road and the boy – then aged 16 – went on to voluntarily attend a police station with family members.
The jury heard that, in a prepared statement, he admitted moving the bin and burying the body but insisted he was not involved in the keep-fit enthusiast’s death.
He said he was walking alone in the area when he was approached by a man he didn’t know who promised him “a lot of money” if he disposed of a body.
He stated: “He showed me where the body was and he went away straight away, leaving me to ‘get rid of the body’.
“I have not met this man before. I have not met him since, nor have I had any contact with him. He has not paid me any money.
“He told me that he would leave the money for me near where the body had been at first once everything was clear.
“I cannot describe the man other than to say he was white, male, spoke English. I could not see his face well as he was covering it with his hood. I am not sure of his height, build or age.”
The teenager has admitted assisting an offender but prosecutor David McLachlan QC told the court the Crown did not accept that plea.
Mr McLachlan said: “Far from it being a case of [the youth] assisting and helping a mystery man, the prosecution case is he is in fact the mystery man and he is guilty of murder.
“A young man who went to exceptional lengths to move Mrs Birbeck’s body and also did a very good job of hiding her body in a shallow grave in the cemetery.
“Such a good job that the police and the public – who searched in vast numbers – were not able to find her body until 12 days after she had gone missing.”
Mrs Birbeck was identified from dental records. A post-mortem examination concluded the cause of death was neck injuries.
A Home Office pathologist said severe compressive force appeared to have been used, which could have been done in several ways including through stamping, kicking or kneeling on the front of the neck.
The teenager denies murder and manslaughter.