TWO men have been found guilty of killing a father-of-two with a baseball bat before his body was dumped.

Nicholas Rought was found guilty of the murder of John ‘Jonty’ Hall while Stuart Smith was cleared of murder, but convicted guilty of manslaughter.

They tried to hide the 46-year-old’s bloodied body in Mark's Lane, West Rainton, near Durham City, and made a botched attempt to clean the crime scene at Mill Terrace in Shiny Row, where the killing took place on Saturday, September 14.

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Police launched a murder investigation after a dog walker and his 15-year-old son found Mr Hall’s corpse the following evening.

Rought, 45, of Princess Street, Shiney Row, and Smith, 42, of Shotley Bridge, near Consett, were charged with murder and verdicts were returned today (Tuesday, April 1) following a two week trial at Newcastle Crown Court.

The court heard the attack on Mr Hall, of Burn Terrace, Shiney Row, was carried out during a drinking session among a gang of men and was motivated by a 20 year grudge.

The jury was told the attack was so severe his face has been ‘flattened’ with the baseball bat.

Detective Chief Inspector Christina Barrett, who investigated the killing, said: "John was killed in an extremely violent and brutal way.

"Those involved in his death viciously attacked him and went on to try and hide his body.

"They lied to his family and the police about their involvement in his death and I hope that John's family can take some reassurance from the fact that both of these dangerous men will be off the streets for a long time.

"I want to praise John's family for being so strong and supportive throughout the investigation and I also want to thank the local community in Houghton for the help that they gave officers while carrying out enquiries."

The jury was told a third man, Paul Tate, 49, of Cambridge Road, Silksworth, cut Mr Hall’s throat, and had been charged with murder cut his own throat while on remand in Holme House Prison in Stockton.

Trevor Kellett, who was arrested and released after questioning, was found dead at a house in Avenue Vivian, Fencehouses, near Chester-le-Street, in November. Police said there were no suspicious circumstances.

Rought and Smith have also pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice in relation to trying to hide their crime.

They will be sentenced tomorrow. (Wednesday, April, 2)