A WOMAN has been cleared of murder for her role in the brutal hammer attack of a man in his own bed.

Jurors returned not guilty verdicts on Tracey Bunney after hearing how she drove her partner, Marty Bates, close to the scene of the violent attack.

The 45-year-old's partner, Bates, changed his plea to guilty earlier this week and admitted murdering his friend.

John Littlewood was found dead in the bedroom of his home in Third Street, Blackhall Colliery, near Hartlepool.

The 36-year-old, known as John D, was beaten to death with a hammer while he was asleep in bed.

The Northern Echo: John LittlewoodJohn Littlewood

His bloodied and battered body was found by his on-off partner days later in July 2019.

The prosecution told the court how Bates and Bunney drove from their nearby home before parking up in an alleyway near to Mr Littlewood's home on July 26.

Jurors heard how Bunney allegedly drove the car back to their home on Tenth Street 'without Bates'.

CCTV footage showed a shirtless Bates making his way home on foot after carrying out the violent attack.

Bunney was discharged from the dock and was free to leave court.

Bates will be sentenced at a later date after his guilty plea to murdering Mr Littlewood.