To the names of David Atherton, Steven Hoskin and Kevin Davies, "vulnerable individuals" living "in the community" who were abused, tortured and killed we have to add the name of Brent Martin.
A gang of youths beat and tortured a disabled man to death for "sport", a court heard today. Brent Martin was repeatedly punched, kicked, stamped on and head butted by three youths who bet each other £5 they could knock him out, the jury was told. The court heard that William Hughes and two teenagers, aged 16 and 17, chased Brent across two estates in Sunderland, subjecting him to a series of brutal assaults. Finally he was left dying in a pool of blood next to a parked car in Baxter Road, Town End Farm.
Hughes, 21, of Washington Road, Sunderland, and the 16-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, yesterday pleaded guilty to murder. The 17-year-old, also from Sunderland, went on trial today accused of murder.
Prosecutor Toby Hedworth QC told the court: "On the evening of August 23 last year on the Town End Farm Estate 23-year-old Brent Martin, a young man who had learning disabilities and had spent nine years of his life in psychiatric hospitals, was systematically attacked, demeaned, headbutted and beaten by people whom he misguidedly believed to be his friends. They behaved like a pack of animals as they repeatedly punched, kicked, headbutted and stamped on Brent Martin. That man Brent Martin never lifted an aggressive finger towards them and they did that to him until he was dead. They did that for their own sport."
The court was told that the attack began at a bus stop when the 17-year-old bet £5 that the 16-year-old - both were trained as boxers - could not knock out Brent with his right hand. The 16-year-old kissed his right fist, then his left fist before repeatedly knocking down Brent with single punches. The disabled man was then chased across the Town End Farm and Hylton Castle estates for around a mile where on at least four occasions he was attacked. Then Brent would get up, apologise to his attackers, shake their hands and would often buy alcohol and cigarettes for them. Mr Hedworth said the gang deliberately chose grassed areas to attack him so that he would not hit his head when they knocked him down.
"Say the Crown, they set quite deliberately to do such serious harm to Brent Martin for their own amusement and no doubt to make themselves look big among their friends," Mr Hedworth said. "As the attack went on, its nature, ferocity and perseverance make it quite clear they were not happy until he was dead. At that time they were using that violence towards him they had no such sensibility, no restraint, no qualms and no mercy."
As Brent was brutally beaten, eyewitnesses reported him shouting: "Nah, nah, no please." After the final murderous attack in Baxter Road the three posed for pictures, the court heard. One witness described them as "appearing to be happy from what they had done - getting a buzz out of it". The court heard that the 17-year-old defendant later told witnesses: "I am not going down for a muppet." Mr Hedworth said Brent had been admitted to psychiatric hospitals as a teenager and had only been released into the care of his mother three months before his death. Brent had saved £3,000 during his time in hospital and in the three months since his release he had spent almost all of it. "He was a gentle and easily-led child who thought everyone was his mate. People took advantage of him," the barrister said.
On the evening of the attack he asked his sister for money so he could "buy some drinks for the lads", warning her he would get his "head kicked in". Brent died in Sunderland Royal Hospital surrounded by his family, including his mother Brenda and twin sister Danielle, on August 25, having never regained consciousness. A post-mortem examination revealed he died from a massive head injury and had suffered at least 18 separate blows to the head and neck.
A 47-year-old woman - the mother of the 16-year-old - is also on trial accused of attempting to pervert the course of justice. She is accused of destroying evidence by washing the blood-stained clothing of her son.
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