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Teenager goes on trial for murder of Lindsay Birbeck

A 16-year-old boy murdered a teaching assistant as she walked in woods behind her home and moved her body in a wheelie bin to a cemetery, a jury heard.

Mother-of-two Lindsay Birbeck, 47, from Accrington, Lancashire, was last seen alive on the afternoon of August 12 heading towards the area known locally as The Coppice, where the prosecution say she was killed a short time later.

Her concerned family raised the alarm when the keep-fit enthusiast did not return home that evening and police launched a search operation, initially focused on The Coppice.

Many members of the local community also went looking for Mrs Birbeck but she was not discovered until August 24 in a wooded area at Accrington Cemetery where her naked body was wrapped in two clear plastic bags.

Credit: Lancashire Constabulary

Opening the case on Wednesday at Preston Crown Court, David McLachlan QC said: "There are two important people in his case - Lindsay Birbeck who sadly is dead and the defendant in the dock who the prosecution say is the killer.

"The young man who went to exceptional lengths to move her body and also did a very good job of hiding her body in a shallow grave in the cemetery.

"He did such a good job that the police or public, notwithstanding the efforts they went to, did not find her body until 12 days after she had gone missing."

The prosecutor said the defendant, now aged 17, pulled a blue wheelie bin along Burnley Road towards The Coppice, more than four hours after Mrs Birbeck went missing, and used it to conceal her body.

Five days later the youth, who cannot be named for legal reasons, retrieved the bin from The Coppice and hauled it back across Burnley Road to the cemetery, the court heard.

On the early evening of August 24 a dog walker rang police after he said he spotted a plastic cover and what appeared to be a leg in woodland at the cemetery.

Mrs Birbeck was identified through dental records and a post-mortem examination concluded the cause of death was neck injuries.

Severe compressive force appeared to have been used, according to a Home Office pathologist, which could have been done in several ways including through stamping or kicking - or kneeling on the front of the neck.

On August 27 a CCTV still of a male pulling a blue wheelie bin along Burnley Road was issued to the media and later that day the defendant attended a police station with family members.

In a prepared statement he admitted moving the bin and burying the body but said he was not involved in Mrs Birbeck's death.

He said he was walking alone in the area when he was approached by a stranger who promised him "a lot of money" if he disposed of a body.

He stated: "He showed me where the body was and he went away straightaway leaving me to 'get rid of the body'.

"I have not met this man before. I have not met him since, nor have I had any contact with him. He has not paid me any money.

"He told me that he would leave the money for me near where the body had been at first once everything was clear.

"I cannot describe the man other than to say he was white, male, spoke English.

"I could not see his face well as he was covering it with his hood. I am not sure of his height, build or age."

The youth, who has autism and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), denies murder.

The trial is estimated to last up to three weeks.