Men 'laughed' during bat attack

The Northern Echo: John “Jonty” Hall John “Jonty” Hall

A MURDER trial has heard three men laughed and giggled as they drunkenly flattened the face of a man described as "a bully" with a baseball bat.

Colin Brown, who witnessed the alleged attack, told a jury that Nicholas Rought and Stuart Smith took turns in hitting his 46-year-old friend, John ‘Jonty’ Hall, with the bat during a sustained and savage attack that killed him.

Mr Brown said the pair, who are on trial at Newcastle Crown Court, both took part in the beating along with drug dealer Paul Tate.

The attack is said to have happened in the dining room of Mr Tate’s partner’s house at Mill Terrace, Shiney Row, on the evening of September 14, after the group had been drinking and trouble flared.

The jury was told Mr Smith split Mr Hall’s eyebrow twice with two punches after playing a slapping game before Nicholas Rought stabbed him in the neck with a fork.

Mr Brown said: “Stuey picked up the bat and started braying Jonty across the body and legs. Nicky and Paul were just kicking him all over his body.

“They were just laughing and giggling at what they were doing to him.

“When they were braying him they were saying ‘you are not bullying anyone else, you are not setting anyone else up’.”

Mr Brown, who wept while giving evidence, reached for his phone to call the police but was hit himself across the arms and legs and ordered to keep his mouth shut.

He said: “It was horrific. I was in shock. They said if I said anything the same would happen to me.”

Mr Brown went upstairs as the door had been locked and said he heard Mr Tate say ‘get the knife and I will cut his throat'.”

Mr Hall's body was found by a man and his 15-year-old son walking their dog in Mark's Lane, West Rainton, near Durham City, the following evening.

Mr Rought, 45, of Princess Street, Shiney Row, and Mr Smith, 42, of no fixed abode, both deny murder but have both pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice by hiding Mr Hall’s body.

Mr Tate, 49, of Cambridge Road, Silksworth, Sunderland, was also charged but the jury has been told he died after he cut his own throat while on remand in Holme House Prison at Stockton.

The trial continues.

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