Gang leader convicted of torturing boy, 14, to death

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The leader of a teenage gang that tortured and beat a 14-year-old boy to death and then cut up his body was convicted of murder yesterday.

Matthew Welsh, 19, was the dominant figure in a gang of three who turned on Adam Morrell, a former friend, and savagely attacked him.

Adam suffered more than 280 injuries after he was punched, kicked, burned, and stamped on in a house in Loughborough. He was later suffocated and his body chopped up in a bath.

The gang were drinking and taking ecstasy and cannabis on the night of the attack, which started when Adam began complaining about his girlfriend. The police were unable to explain why the teenagers turned against their former gang member, but a criminologist suggested the youngest and weakest member of the group may have been targeted to deflect tensions from the others. Adam had been expelled or excluded from school on several occasions but was attending student support services and making good progress in the weeks prior to his death.

Welsh, 19, and his girlfriend, Sarah Morris, 17, carried out the attack in November last year. Nathan Barnett, 27, who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism, admitted strangling Adam and pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He cut up the body with two saws, wrapped the limbs in black plastic bags and dumped them in various parts of Loughborough.

Morris was found guilty at Nottingham Crown Court of deliberately assaulting the youngster but cleared of his murder. Another teenager, Daniel Biggs, 19, was cleared by the jury of murder or any part in the sustained assault.

Welsh admitted he punched Adam first, which sparked a prolonged attack, during which the gang each took it in turns to beat him. Biggs admitted he was present during the assault but did not take part. The following day, the court heard, Barnett mixed sugar and boiling water and poured it on the boy's back and chest, causing severe burns.

Barnett later bought black plastic bags and tape and returned to the house where he announced he was going to strangle Adam. Morris turned up the music to drown out the noise as Adam choked to death. Barnett put the body in the bath and began cutting it up with two saws and wrapping it in the plastic bags. Members of the gang cleaned the house in an effort to hide the evidence.

The group persuaded Barnett to go to the police and admit to the killing and concocted a false account of events leading to the boy's death.

Mr Justice Morland remanded the three teenagers in custody for sentencing later this month.