The trial is ongoing in the case of four people from Romford, Essex, in England, charged with brutally beating a man to death, exacting vengeance for a rape that seems never to have occurred.
Two years ago Alice Hall, then 16, accused Luke Harwood, also 16, of raping her. Police investigated and determined that, “it was clear she was not in fact saying that he had raped her and no further action was taken against him“. Then in May 2012, Hall’s sister, Emma, 21, saw Harwood by chance as he was moving into his new place. She told her boyfriend, Tony O’Toole, 29, and two friends, James Danby, 27, and Jovan Roberts, 28, that Harwood was the man that had raped her sister two years prior. The group targeted the 5-foot-7 inch, 98-pound father of one for termination. Danby and Roberts reportedly entered Harwood’s studio apartment and photographed him before the attack. O’Toole, Danby and Roberts are accused of punching and kicking Harwood for two hours, while Emma Hall looked on laughing. The group reportedly brought the beaten, bleeding Harwood to Emma’s apartment to show off what they had done. Then Emma drove Harwood, Danby and Roberts to a stream bank by a field where the group planned to kill him. Danby reportedly tried to strangle Harwood to death, but when the young man fought back, Danby is accused of stamping on his head 20 times, breaking most of the bones in Harwood’s face. The jury was later told that Danby had boasted that Harwood’s head “went like a marshmallow and popped where his brain came out.”
The trio burned the body along with their bloody clothes, covered the remains with a mattress and some other debris, and returned to the apartment to clean up the blood. Prosecutor Simon Denison told the court that the next day the Hall drove Danby and O’Toole as well as acquaintances Billy Duggan, 21, and Khalid Hassan, 20, to the scene of the murder, “They had with them knives and a pair of bolt cutters that they were intending to use to mutilate his body to make it more difficult for him to be identified by cutting off his fingers and removing his teeth.”
Hall apparently had tipped off police and the group was caught and arrested. Hall and O’Toole tried to pin the whole thing on the others, but police interviewed a terrified Alice Hall, who told them what had really happened. Hall, Danby, O’Toole and Roberts pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and causing grievous bodily harm with intent. Hall, Danby, O’Toole, Duggan and Hassan pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.