Five jailed for six-day orgy of torture

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The Independent Online
FIVE FRIENDS were found guilty yesterday of murdering a young schizophrenic woman they tortured for six days and buried in a shallow grave.

Angela Pearce, 18, was lured to a council flat in Leeds where the gang hit her over the head with a snooker cue, kicked and punched her, put cigarettes out on her body, set her hair on fire and urinated on her. Then they dumped her body in a nearby disused cemetery in April last year.

Sisters Meina Latif, 18, and Claire Latif, 20, Mark Francom, 23, and Christopher Bevis, 18, were also found guilty of false imprisonment. During the trial Nolene Harker, 17, admitted false imprisonment.

They had all pleaded not guilty to murder.

The jury at Leeds Crown Court also found Claire Latif and Harker guilty of robbing Miss Pearce of her jewellery.

The court had heard that the female members of the gang knew Miss Pearce was mentally ill and lured her to their flat in Mabgate, Leeds, to ply her with alcohol before torturing her. The beatings were so ferocious that Miss Pearce's eyes were swollen to "the size of tennis balls". The five laughed and joked as they tortured to death Miss Pearce, from Skelton Terrace, Leeds.

They hid Miss Pearce behind a sofa, putting music on to drown out her moaning when visitors arrived. She was then put in a kitchen cupboard.

The beatings continued and she was then suffocated with a plastic bag.

The gang decided Miss Pearce "would not and could not be allowed to leave the flat alive", said Malcolm Swift QC, for the prosecution.

Bevis and Francom dug a grave at a disused cemetery, returned to the flat, wrapped Miss Pearce's body in a blanket and took it to the cemetery. Francom had to stamp on the body to fit it into the shallow grave. The three girls watched.

The body was found less than two weeks later, after Francom told a taxi driver he had heard that a woman who was reported missing was buried in the cemetery.

A post-mortem examination revealed Miss Pearce had died from extensive injuries.

The five were arrested on 25 April last year.

Mrs Justice Steel said it was one of the worst cases she had heard. "This is an exceptional case of cold-blooded murder," the judge said.

Harker, Bevis and Meina Latif were jailed at Her Majesty's pleasure and the judge said that she would recommend extremely long jail terms to the Home Secretary.

Claire Latif and Francom were jailed for life.

Mrs Justice Steel told the defendants: "Nobody who has sat in court and heard the evidence can have failed to have been sickened by the catalogue of cruelty and humiliation that Angela Pearce suffered at your hands. You selected her so you could have some fun with her. She was also selected because she had a quantity of jewellery. Your motives were cruelty and greed." The judge said that when Miss Pearce was taken back to the flat the two men joined in the catalogue of violence and it descended into "a totally evil enterprise".

She said: "One of the most chilling aspects has been the complete callous indifference that each of you showed to Angela Pearce."

The judge said that after the first beatings Angela's face was so disfigured that the gang dare not let her out of the flat.

She said: "The violence escalated. She was stamped and kicked with such force that her ribs and chest bone shattered. Not one of you showed her any compassion. How she finally died will never be known.

"Not a word of remorse has been offered by any of you. Your only concern has been to lie in order to shift the blame on to other people and try and save your own skins."

Detective Inspector George Phillips said it was "an extraordinary case".

"The murder was loathsome in the extreme. Angela was a young and vulnerable girl and she had her whole life to look forward to. It's a horrible crime and at the end of the day it was the ultimate crime - murder."

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