Victim shot and attacked with acid after ‘one-night stand’, court hears

Michael Hillier and Rachel Fulstow deny the murder of Liam Smith last November.

Pat Hurst
Tuesday 11 July 2023 17:31 BST
Liam Smith who was shot and subjected to an acid attack (GMP/PA)
Liam Smith who was shot and subjected to an acid attack (GMP/PA)

A father-of-two was shot in the face then doused in acid by the boyfriend of a woman he had a one-night-stand with, a murder trial heard.

Liam Smith, 38, was lured out of his home and blasted at close range with a gun by Michael Hillier, 39, who then poured the corrosive liquid, probably sulphuric acid on the face and body of his stricken victim, burning away his flesh, a jury at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester was told.

Mr Smith was left for dead in the street outside his house with the chemicals still “fizzing” on his body when he was found shortly after the attack in the early evening of November 24 last year.

Mr Smith, an electrician from Wigan, Greater Manchester, had had a “brief liaison” with Hillier’s co-accused, former nail technician Rachel Fulstow, 37, with a one-night stand in a hotel in 2019.

The next year she became the partner of Hillier, from Sheffield who was not happy about the fling and was “led to believe she had been raped,” Jason Pitter KC, opening the case for the prosecution, told the jury.

Both Fulstow, from Andrew Drive, York and Hillier, from Ecclesall Road, Sheffield, deny murder.

But Mr Pitter told the jury the pair had planned the murder and Liam Smith was “executed”.

He said: “Why do we say that? Well, having been drawn out of his house he was blasted, at probably close range, in the face with a shot from a gun.

“That was fatal, it penetrated his brain and would have brought him instantly to the ground.

“However the killer, dressed in a high visibility jacket with a head torch, did not stop there.

“However, he then proceeded to pour acid onto the face and body of Liam Smith, followed by soda crystals.

“The result was that his flesh burned away in those areas where the acid made contact with his skin.”

Mr Smith’s mother and sister wept uncontrollably in the public gallery as CCTV footage from the murder attack, including the sound of the gun being fired, was played to the jury.

Mr Pitter said Mr Smith and Fulstow had the “brief liaison” at a York hotel in 2019 and she became Hillier’s partner a year later, allegedly sparking the murder plot.

He continued: “It appears that he was not happy about the fact of her having had a one night stand and was led to believe that she had been raped.

“We will wait to see what the precise motivation for the killing of Liam Smith was.

“One proper conclusion is that Liam Smith’s brief interaction with Fulstow was in a distorted and extreme way the cause for him being their target.

“In due course she was to go on to say that she believed that she had not consented to have sex with Liam Smith on that night in the hotel in York which she had booked.

“However, even if that is right, she had put it down to a, ‘misunderstanding’ of the situation between them and that she herself held no ill feeling to Liam Smith.

“It is factually relevant but does not need resolving as to what exactly happened between them.

“Liam Smith cannot answer for himself.

“In any event, it is shrouded in uncertainty, even on her version, and would never justify the extreme violence and murder of him.”

Mr Pitter said although Hillier alone carried out the attack, he was not solely responsible for Mr Smith’s death.

The prosecution say that he was assisted in the organisation, preparation and execution of the attack by the first defendant, Rachel Fulstow, his then girlfriend.”

Jurors were told prosecution evidence includes CCTV and vehicle recognition footage, mobile telephone tracking and internet searches done by Fulstow before and after the murder.

These included online searches for Mr Smith and searching for the meaning of the word, “premeditated” and “barbaric”.

A week after the murder both defendants went on holiday for a fortnight to Jamaica, jurors heard.

Fulstow and Hillier both deny murder.

Hillier has pleaded guilty to manslaughter, Fulstow has pleaded not guilty to the same charge.

She also denies a single count of perverting the course of justice.

The trial was adjourned until Wednesday morning.

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