'Masterplan for murder' found in bedroom: Defendant in Manwaring trial says notebook was idea for a novel

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The Independent Online
THE MAN accused of murdering Matthew and Alison Manwaring told an Old Bailey jury yesterday that 'a masterplan for murder' found in his bedroom was an idea for a crime novel.

Benjamin Laing, 25, told the court that his father, a Ghanaian author, had asked him for some ideas for a new novel. 'It is not a plan for murder, it is an ideas notebook. I wrote down ideas for my Dad's new book,' he said.

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

Michael Stuart-Moore QC, for the prosecution, said under the headings 'for' and 'against', Mr Laing wrote about stealing a car and killing the owner. His idea was to stage a suicide by sealing the victim in a van filled with carbon monoxide. 'Let owner call a 'friend' from van on mobile phone - have not decided if just owner or family will be in van,' he wrote.

Mr Laing denied the allegations and said his father was interested in writing a book about revenge, with the central characters being a car salesman and a customer. 'I suggested that the customer set up the salesman in a suicide set-up, then sold his car and bought his business.'

Although Mr Laing admitted writing a list of items, some of which corresponded with items used in the murder, he denied it was a 'shopping' list of his murder kit.

Mr Laing said he knew he had been implicated in the murder because he had bought the Manwarings' car and had tried to use one of their bank books. 'It was a disposal list, to remind me of things I had to get rid of. Things that could connect me to the murder,' he said.

Mr Laing told the court he had been framed for the murder by Mark Leslie, his best friend, Neil Philips, another friend, and Frank Cohen, a car thief. He said Mr Leslie had confessed to him that Mr Cohen had murdered the Manwarings, while he watched: 'Mark told me what happened, the murderer is a monster.'

Although Mr Laing admitted buying two pairs of handcuffs the day before the murders, he said they were for Mr Leslie. He denied manacling Ms Manwaring to a bedroom radiator and torturing her to reveal banking information and personal details. Four days after the murder, Mr Laing said, Mr Leslie and Mr Cohen buried the dismembered bodies in his girlfriend's garden. He denied a neighbour's allegation that she had seen him digging the graves. 'She couldn't have meant me, she knows me. I am not white, the only white person is Frank,' he said.

Mr Stuart-Moore suggested that Mr Cohen was a figment of Mr Laing's 'vivid' imagination. He added: 'For Frank Cohen, we should read Benjamin Ekow Laing.' Mr Laing denied this.

The trial continues today.