A MAN who was battered to death in his own home suffered almost 50 injuries including brain injuries, fractures to his skull, facial bones and 17 broken ribs.

Michael Phillips was violently attacked in his Hartlepool home by the gang of vigilantes who believed he had burgled one of their daughters and stole her car.

The 39-year-old was subjected to a brutal and sustained assault using a cosh, knuckleduster, punches, kicks and stamps, in June last year, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Home Office pathologist, Dr Louise Mulcahy, told jurors that when she performed the post-mortem examination on Mr Phillips she removed 2.5l of blood and fluids from his abdominal cavity and a further 200ml of blood from his chest.

Her detailed report catalogued all of the injuries the 5ft 8in victim suffered as blows rained down on him inside his house on Rydal Street.

She told jurors that one of the skull fractures had a distinctive 'squared-off edge' and when she was shown a gold-coloured knuckleduster she said: "It’s my opinion that this could well account for the fracture to the skull because of the shape of the knuckleduster.”

Mr Phillips also had five fractures to the jaw, cheekbone and right eye socket.

Miss Mucahy told the jury that the most significant injuries were internal, including the 17 broken ribs, lacerated spleen and lung, and heavy internal bleeding.

She said the most typical mechanism for the torso injuries was “use of kicks, stamps and/or a weapon” and recorded several injuries which could be associated with footwear patterns.

Recording the cause of death as a result multiple blunt force injuries to his head and body. She said: "The torso injuries could have caused death in isolation because of the significant amount of blood loss."

The seven, all from Hartlepool, are Lee Darby, 32, of Ridley Court; Neil Elliott, 44, of Briarfields Close; Gary Jackson, 31, of The Darlings; John Musgrave, 54, and Sean Musgrave, 30, both of Wordsworth Avenue; Craig Thorpe, 36, of Young Street; and Anthony Small, 39, of Rydal Street.

All of the men deny murdering Mr Phillips.

Elliott, a director of waste management firm Niramax, denies a charge of assaulting another man causing actual bodily harm.