TWO men have been jailed for savagely killing a father-of-two before dumping his body near a country lane.

Nicholas Rought, 45, who battered his friend to death with a baseball bat must serve a minimum 19 years of a life sentence for the murder of John “Jonty” Hall, a judge ruled at Newcastle Crown Court today (Wednesday, April 2).

Stuart Smith, 42, was jailed for 15 years for manslaughter and for helping Rought hide the 46-year-old’s body.

Loading article content

Rought and Smith subjected Mr Hall to an horrific attack during a drinking session at Mill Terrace, Shiney Row, on Wearside, on Saturday September 14. 

During a two-week trial, the court heard Rought had blamed Hall of nearby Herrington Burn, for his kidnapping and torture by Glaswegian gangsters more than 20 years ago.

But, in passing sentence, Judge John Milford QC said they had reconciled and were on friendly terms at the time of the attack.

The judge said: “For reasons that are not entirely clear violence erupted that night.

“It was an irrational violence so often associated with excessive drinking - that much is clear to me.

“You, Rought, beat the deceased repeatedly with a baseball bat. You confessed this to police and I am satisfied you intended the kill the deceased.”

Mr Milford said Smith had played a “more minor part” in the attack.

Mr Hall suffered an “appalling catalogue of injuries” including ten blows to the face with a bat.

His throat was also cut by Paul Tate, 49, who took his own life in prison while awaiting trial.

Rought and Smith tried to hide his body in Mark’s Lane, West Rainton, near Durham City, where it was later found by a dog walker.

And they made a botched attempt to clean the crime scene.

Speaking on behalf of the family after the hearing, Mr Hall’s daughter Bethany said: "No sentence could ever reflect the pain and heartache we feel as a family. What we have lost is irreplaceable and we must live with our loss every day. . .

“The man that we knew and loved was a family man who loved nature and the outdoors and would go out of his way to help anyone he could.”

Gerry Sydenham, head of the crown court unit at CPS North East, said: “We are pleased with the sentences passed on Rought and Smith today.

“Through their actions, Rought and Smith have caused untold devastation to those who loved John Hall and I would hope that his family and friends can gain a measure of closure from the sentencing of this vicious pair.”

Rought of Princess Street, Shiney Row, and Smith of who hails from Shotley Bridge, near Consett, had both denied murder but admitted perverting the course of justice in relation to trying to trying to conceal their crime.