CCTV footage, telephone records and social media has been forensically examined to connect the gang of men who are accused of carrying out a brutal murder.

The digital footprint of all seven defendants was brought under the spotlight at Teesside Crown Court as detectives traced their steps on the day of Michael Phillips’ savage beating.

Businessman Neil Elliott and his co-accused who hunting for the man he believed has burgled his daughter's home and stolen her Ford Fiesta.

Mr Phillips suffered 50 injuries including 15 rib fractures, skull and facial fractures, a punctured lung and spleen as a result of the ferocious attack in his home on Rydal Street, Hartlepool, last June.

Detective Constable Vincent Morris, of Cleveland and North Yorkshire Police Major Investigation Unit, trawled through hours of CCTV to retrace the movements of the gang accused of carrying out the brutal, sustained assault.

He said: “I believe in that envelope was a USB stick which contained downloaded footage which we saw earlier of the stolen vehicle driving by and the two people walking."

Footage from the Premier Store on Cornwall Street, pictured below, in the town showed Lee Darby getting out of Elliott's car and quizzing a staff member and customer to see if they could identify the people in the CCTV footage they had collected.

The Northern Echo:

Premier Store on Cornwall Street, Hartlepool. Picture: GOOGLE

The officer showed jurors CCTV footage of Elliott's Mercedes pick-up truck leaving the area followed by a black Volvo 4x4 owned by another defendant, Gary Jackson.

Phone records of the defendants showed dozens of calls or messages taking place between different members of the gang.

One call recorded showed that at 9.15pm on June 10, shortly after the killing, Lee Darby called his cousin, who then called Michael Phillips’ phone.

There were 12 calls logged between Neil Elliott’s number and Lee Darby’s number on June 10 and 11.

Teesside Crown Court heard that seven Hartlepool men are facing a charge of murder for the attack: Neil Elliott, 44, of Briarfield Close; Lee Darby, 31, of Ridley Court; John Musgrave, 54, of Wordsworth Avenue; Anthony Small, 39, of Rydal Stree; Craig Thorpe, 36, of Young Street; Sean Musgrave, 30, Wordsworth Avenue; and Gary Jackson, 30, of The Darlings, Hart Village.

They have all pleaded not guilty to murder.

Neil Elliott also faces another charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm for hitting another man in the face with a cosh on the same day.

The trial continues.