Woodhead Pass murder accused used text messages and GPS apps to plan lay-by attack

Mr Preston's body was found by dog walkers, lying face down at the bottom of an embankment on the edge of the river Ethrow, near to the Woodhead Pass on August 22, 2016.
Mr Preston's body was found by dog walkers, lying face down at the bottom of an embankment on the edge of the river Ethrow, near to the Woodhead Pass on August 22, 2016.

Five people accused of murdering a man in a Rotherham lay by used text messages and GPS apps on their phones to ensure their attack plan ran smoothly, a court has heard.

This morning Sheffield Crown Court was read transcripts of text messages sent between phones used by the five defendants accused of murdering Craig Preston in a lay-by off Town Lane, Rotherham at around midnight on August 22.

The five people on trial for the murder of Mr Preston are his former girlfriend Leonie Mason, 23, along with her new boyfriend Shiraz Bashir, 41, and three 15-year-old boys, who cannot be named for legal reasons; that the Crown say were recruited by Mason and Bashir, both of Holme Park Court, Huddersfield to help them with their murderous plan.

The text messages read out to the jury were sent between the defendants in the run up to the fatal attack on the evening of August 21 last year, when it is alleged Mason was driving around Rotherham with Mr Preston and two of the 15-year-old defendants.

In a number of the text messages sent between Bashir and one of the boys the 41-year-old repeatedly tells the boy to ensure Mason has 'her GPS on' and also tells him to 'make sure you park in the right place'.

The boy responded to Bashir by telling him: "Just as the beginning of it. As soon as he's out of the car we'll run out past him, crack him and take his legs," the court heard.

Later on the boy tells Bashir he wants to hit Mr Preston first, to which Bashir responds by saying: 'Make sure you knock him out."

Bashir later tells him: "Make it happen, don't chicken out. It's now or never."

The last messages sent between the pair were at around 11.45pm that evening when the boy sends three messages to Bashir in quick succession, all saying: 'ready'.

The Crown say all five defendants played an equal role in the fatal attack against Mr Preston, who ran a low-level drug business in Rotherham, that is believed to have taken place around midnight and estimated to have lasted around five minutes.

The court heard how at 12.15am Mason answered Mr Preston's phone to one of the 34-year-old's clients, David Johnson.

Another of his customers, Kieran Applegate, previously told the court how Mr Preston had failed to drop off a delivery of crack cocaine and heroin as agreed at around midnight on August 22.

Two hours later, Mr Preston still had not delivered the drugs or contacted him, which Mr Applegate told the court was strange as he was always ‘very quick’ at completing a deal.

Prosecutor Daffyd Enoch told the court how Mr Applegate received a call from Mason at around 2.18am.

Mr Applegate said: “She was saying she was the other side of Sheffield, and wouldn’t be long. “[When she arrived] she was rushing. It was odd. She had pyjamas or a onesie or something on. I thought it was really strange because Craig wasn’t there and they were always, always together.”

Around eight hours later Mr Preston's body was found by dog walkers, lying face down at the bottom of an embankment on the edge of the river Ethrow, near to the Woodhead Pass.

All five defendants deny one count of murder.

The trial continues.