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Murder jury told of 'copycat killing'

PUBLISHED: 19:40 28 April 2009 | UPDATED: 13:48 03 July 2010

THE "grotesque" killing of a teenager found burnt alive in a Norfolk wood was inspired by a spoof horror film, prosecutors said today.

Jurors were shown a clip from 2006 Brit comedy Severance, in which a young woman is tied to a tree, doused in petrol and then set alight, as the trial into the murder of Simon Everitt began at Norwich Crown Court.

THE “grotesque” killing of a teenager found burnt alive in a Norfolk wood was inspired by a spoof horror film, prosecutors said today.

Jurors were shown a clip from 2006 Brit comedy Severance, in which a young woman is tied to a tree, doused in petrol and then set alight, as the trial into the murder of Simon Everitt began at Norwich Crown Court.

The 17-year-old's decomposed body was found dumped in a swamp after he was apparently murdered in revenge for a tangled love affair. Police established the retribution killing had been carried out in a manner which almost exactly replicated the film scene.

Prosecutor Karim Khalil QC told the court that after watching the grisly scene one of the defendants, Jonathan Clarke, said to a friend: “Wouldn't it be wicked if you could actually do that to somebody in real life.”

Mr Khalil added: “The killing reflects some of the worst aspects of the film clip but it's for real. Real people are involved in the horrors that arose.

“Real people were involved in the planning and the killing. A real person, Simon Everitt, was tied to that tree, had petrol poured down his throat and doused over him, was set alight and left to die.”

Mr Khalil said that, given the method used, there could be no dispute that Mr Everitt was murdered, simply to what extent each of the three defendant's was involved.

The burnt body of Mr Everitt, from Yarmouth, was found at nearby Mautby on June 29. He had been missing since June 6 and it is believed he was killed shortly after his disappearance.

After he was set alight, the flames burnt through the rope which held him to the tree. He staggered for several moments, still alive, before falling to the ground where he died of burns and the inhalation of fumes. There was evidence he had been beaten.

Jimi-Lee Stewart, 25, of Nelson Road Central, Yarmouth, Maria Chandler, 40, of Lancaster Road, Yarmouth, and Clarke, 19, from Telford, all deny murder.

Mr Khalil said Mr Everitt and the two male defendants had all had a relationship with a girl, Fiona Statham, who was “playing off” each of them.

Miss Statham had accepted a marriage proposal from Mr Everitt, although Mr Khalil said she did not appear to take this seriously.

He added: “This case highlights the grotesque brutality that young people can inflict on one another, doing it in the name of sexual jealousy or some sort of warped allegiance to each other.”

The court heard Mr Everitt was murdered between June 6 and June 29 last year. He was assaulted, bundled into a car and taken to the forest before being tied to the tree.

It is alleged that Stewart and Clarke interrogated him over his relationship with Miss Statham. When he confessed, they killed him. Throughout most of the attack Chandler had remained in the car but had approached the scene of the crime as he lay dying.

Earlier the group had been caught on CCTV filling a canister of petrol. Chandler later claimed she had been forced into co-operating but she appeared relaxed in the footage.

Mr Khalil said that on the night of his disappearance, Miss Statham had called Mr Everitt to check he was safe. He answered but did not speak - instead she heard the sound of traffic, banging and him shouting: “Jimi help me please, I'm begging you.”

The court also heard a 999 call made by Stewart from Mr Everitt's mobile. He said he needed an ambulance for his friend but did not know where he was. The operator asked him to find out the location and call back. They did not hear from him again.

In the build up to the killing, Clarke sent a number of threatening text messages to Everitt. He also boasted about his intentions. Chandler had asked friends for a gun or some rope.

After the killing Clarke had threatened another person, saying: “Do you want me to do to you what I done to Simon - put him six feet under and nobody will ever find him.”

Another friend told him he would “go down for a long time” for what he had done. He responded: “They'll have to prove it first.”

When interviewed by police, Clarke gave a false alibi, Mr Khalil said. He added: “He may come to regret saying: 'Find the body, find DNA on it and you've got me'.”

Stewart told the police he had nothing to do with the killing.

The trio was caught after Stewart told his mother, Susan Lewis, about what happened. Ms Lewis, described in court as a “courageous” woman, contacted the police.

DNA and fingerprints from all three were found on a bag of clothes recovered from a bin. Mr Everitt's DNA was also found.

The case is expected to last up to four weeks.

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