Torture victim had 100 injuries, court told

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The Independent Online

A father who was tortured to death suffered more than 100 separate injuries, a court heard today.

Andrew Gardner, 35, was repeatedly punched, kicked, stamped on, whipped and burnt in the weeks leading up to his death in March last year.

His torturers had even played a "grotesque" game of noughts and crosses on Mr Gardner's stomach, Teesside Crown Court heard.

His partner Clare Nicholls, 28, her brother Simon Nicholls, 24, and her ex-partner Steven Martin, 44, all deny Mr Gardner's murder.

His body was found by paramedics in the living room of the house he shared with the three defendants in Arthur Street, in Chilton, Co Durham.

Home Office pathologist Dr Nigel Cooper described in detail to the jury the extent of Mr Gardner's injuries.

Dr Cooper had recorded 106 separate injuries to Mr Gardner's body, including a massive head injury, 21 rib fractures, burns, cuts, whip marks and dozens of bruises and abrasions.

He had been whipped with a curtain flex and knotted tea towels and there were other injuries consistent with him being cut with the serrated edge of a kitchen knife.

Reading from his notes, Dr Cooper said: "Even one rib fracture is painful. With multiple rib fractures the pain will increase but the inefficiency of breathing will increase.

"The only reasonable explanation [for these injuries] is that someone jumped on to Andrew Gardner repeatedly, either with their feet or knees.

"There was a massive amount of abrasions, bruises and burns, almost all of which would have been painful, making him immobile in performing daily tasks.

"Over the abdomen a grotesque game of noughts and crosses had been drawn on Mr Gardner's skin and forms part of torture."

Mr Gardner's feet and left leg had been severely burnt when boiling hot water was poured over him as he took a bath.

And he also suffered burns to his neck and back, which was caused by a cigarette lighter, the pathologist said.

Burns to Mr Gardner's back and left shoulder were consistent with being held forcibly against a hot radiator.

There was also bleeding on Mr Gardner's brain and signs of pleurisy in his chest.

Dr Cooper said that after being attacked a second time Mr Gardner would have been left incapacitated and in severe pain.

"All the evidence is that Mr Gardner took some time to die after suffering these injuries," he told the jury.

"Andrew Gardner died a day or so after receiving his second set of chest injuries.

"It is very likely that he had been dead for some hours before the paramedics examined his body."

The defendants told police that Mr Gardner returned home on the night of March 13 claiming to have been attacked and then collapsed and died.

Asked about the likelihood of this being true, Dr Cooper said: "I find it very hard to accept that he could have been alive half an hour before the paramedics arrived.

"Not only would Mr Gardner have been unable to walk, he would have been lying severely incapacitated or unconscious."

Mr Gardner, who was 5ft 9in tall, weighed just 57kg (8st 14lbs) and was at best "very thin" and may have been malnourished, Dr Cooper said.

The jury has already heard that the victim was not allowed to eat and resorted to stealing food to survive.

If caught stealing food he would be repeatedly beaten.

The three defendants, all of Arthur Street, Chilton, Co Durham, deny murder.

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.