Man 'was framed' for murders: Manwaring trial told of threats

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The Independent Online
THE MAN accused of murdering Matthew and Alison Manwaring told an Old Bailey jury yesterday that he had been framed by his best friend and two other men.

Benjamin Laing, 25, wiped tears from his eyes as he told the court that Frank Cohen, a car thief, held a gun to his head and threatened to kill him and his family if he told the police who the real murderers were. 'I was afraid. I did not know what was happening. I had been threatened and implicated in the murders, it all happened so quickly.'

Mr Laing, a driver, of East Ham, east London, denies murdering the Manwarings on 23 April last year to steal the car they had advertised. The Crown alleges that he shot Mr Manwaring, 62, at his home in Barking, east London, and tortured Miss Manwaring, 24, before strangling her. Their dismembered bodies were later found buried in the garden belonging to Mr Laing's girlfriend.

Although Mr Laing admits buying the Manwarings' car, he claims they were in 'good health' when he left. Mr Laing told the court that Mark Leslie, his best friend, Neil Philips and Mr Cohen followed him to the Manwaring house. 'Immediately after I left they robbed them and killed them,' he said.

Mr Laing said Mr Leslie admitted to him that Mr Cohen shot Mr Manwaring. They then forced Ms Manwaring to reveal her banking details, sign some cheques and write a letter to her boyfriend. 'Mark said he had to restrain Alison with handcuffs because she was hysterical . . . Frank undressed her and sexually abused her . . . he then strangled her with his hands.'

Mr Laing claims Mr Leslie suggested the bodies should be buried in Mr Laing's girlfriend's garden to prevent him from contacting the police.

The trial was adjourned until Monday.