A 23-year-old woman who ‘brutally’ murdered her spurned lover in a Rotherham layby with her new boyfriend and three 15-year-old accomplices celebrated their kill by going for a McDonald’s, a court heard.
Prosecutor Daffyd Enoch told Sheffield Crown Court today how after weeks of plotting, Leonnie Mason, 23, and Shiraz Bashir, 41 beat Craig Preston to death in a lay-by near to Town Lane, Rotherham on August 21 last year.
They were assisted in what Mr Enoch describes as the ‘brutal and senseless murder’ of Mr Preston by three 15-year-old boys, that cannot be named for legal reasons, who the Crown say played an equal role in the vicious attack that led to the fatal head injuries suffered by the 34-year-old.
It is alleged that a member of the group even took a picture of Mr Preston, who was also known as Craig Nelson, as he lay unconscious, doubled up and bleeding heavily.
The picture was recovered from Bashir’s mobile phone, despite it being deleted.
“They were all in it together,” said Mr Enoch.
He added: “Their intention was to seriously harm Mr Preston at the very least.
“This was never going to be a case of giving him a couple of slaps and sending him on his way. He was to be given a severe beating.
“For a person to be guilty of murder the prosecution must prove that they were a party to a joint enterprise to cause the victim at least really serious harm.
“Anyone who participated in, or leant weight to, or encouraged that attack with the intent that he be caused really serious harm, is guilty of murder.”
The court heard how Mason and Mr Preston, of Wath-upon-Dearne had been in a relationship for around seven years, and ran a low-level drug dealing business together, at the time the 23-year-old struck up a sexual relationship with Bashir in 2016.
Mason was so enamoured with Bashir that she changed her name to Alina Shiraz by deed poll in March 2016, and began telling people she had married him.
Mr Enoch said: “To call it a love triangle would be to give the situation the sort of credance it doesn't deserve.
"It was all very grubby and unpleasant.
"Bashir’s hate for Mr Preston gradually grew and his desire to have him out of the way came to be shared by Mason.”
The court heard how Mr Preston was sent to prison for two months in April 2016, and Mason moved Bashir into the property she had been sharing with Mr Preston in Montgomery Square, Wath-upon-Dearne shortly afterwards.
Mr Preston was released from prison on June 16 last year. Bashir had moved out of the flat a day earlier.
Within days of his release, the court was told how a window at the flat was smashed, Mr Preston received medical treatment for self-harm wounds and Mason had tried to stab Mr Preston in the neck with a syringe.
In the months leading up to Mr Preston's murder, the rows between Mr Preston, Mason and Bashir intensified and Mr Enoch told the court how Mr Preston told Melanie Applegate, the housing officer in charge of his Rotherham flat, on one occasion the couple had left him stranded in Barnsley.
By August the court was told how Mason and Bashir, both of Holme Park Court, Huddersfield, were plotting about ‘doing him in’ on Skype.
The Crown alleges the three teenage boys who assisted in his murder were recruited by the couple a short time later.
Mr Enoch told the court how after murdering Mr Preston and dumping his body at the Woodhead Tunnels in Derbyshire in the early hours of August 21 last year, Mason completed a drug deal that had come through on Mr Preston's phone.
A short time later, Mason took two of the teen accomplices out for a ‘celebratory’ McDonalds.
Mr Enoch said: "It’s worth pausing to consider Mason’s state of mind. If the whole event came as a great shock to her, if she never intended anything really bad to happen to Craig, what was she doing calmly continuing about her drug dealing business at 2am?
"If she had witnessed something dreadful and unexpected why was she acting the way she did? She wasn’t that bothered was she?
"She certainly wasn’t traumatised or shocked or scared. Neither for that matter were the two boys with her at 2am happy to go along with her drug dealing.
"They then went off for a celebratory McDonald's."
Dog walkers discovered Mr Preston's body the following morning lying face down at the bottom of an embankment on the edge of the river Ethrow, near to the Woodhead Tunnels.
Mr Enoch said: "His trousers and underwear had been pulled down by his ankles, a sign you may think that those who dumped him there when he was dead were not averse to humiliating him further."
All five defendants deny one charge of murder.