A student was beaten unconscious before his killers stripped him naked, covered him in bleach and threw him off a balcony during a New Years’ Eve party at an abandoned building in Brighton, a court has heard.
Billy Henham, 24, was subjected to ‘a sustained and significant’ assault in the disused building in the early hours of January 1, 2020.
His battered, lifeless body was discovered by police the following day on a recess area of a roof terrace at the former office block in the city.
Gregory Hawley, 28, Lamech Gordon-Carew, 20, Dushane Meikle, 27, and 18-year-old Alize Spence are on trial accused of his murder and have all four pleaded not guilty.
Jurors heard today how Hawley, described as ‘in charge of the squat’, was laughing and joking about the attack and allegedly confessed to stripping Billy’s body and dousing him in bleach before throwing him out of a window.
A witness, who described the room where Billy was attacked as ‘a torture chamber’, told the court Hawley claimed he had to ‘clean up because someone got seriously hurt’ and that he said: ‘We had to finish him off because he heard my name.’
Billy Henham (left and right), from Henfield, West Sussex, was beaten unconscious, stripped naked and thrown out of a window at an abandoned building, Maidstone Crown Court heard
Mr Henham, 24, was seen ‘singing, dancing and smiling’ at a nightclub in the city hours before the fatal attack at the disused building where a New Years’ Eve party was being held.
Maidstone Crown Court was told he had suffered 11 rib fractures, extensive bruising to his scalp, face, and neck, cuts and a brain injury. All were consistent with being punched, kicked and stamped on.
Mr Henham, who lived with his parents in Henfield, West Sussex, and who prosecutors say could have been alive for up to an hour after the incident, had also been struck with a broken wooden stair spindle.
Two deleted photos of his body – one partially clothed and one naked – were later found on Meikle’s phone.
A jury heard Mr Henham, who was studying at Ravensbourne University in south east London, had spent Christmas with his family but wanted to see in the New Year in a ‘lively atmosphere’.
Pictured Billy was described by his family as ‘gentle, kind and peaceful’
Having been to a nightclub and then an off-licence, he ended up at the party in the disused building in North Street sometime after 4.30am on January 1, but was dead within a few hours, Maidstone Crown Court, Kent, was told.
One of those squatting in the four-storey building in North Street at the time was Phillip Mallia.
Giving evidence at the trial on Friday, he recalled hearing screams from ‘someone in pain’ from inside a room before the door opened and he was told by a man to ‘F*** off’.
Mr Mallia, 28, described how a few hours later he saw Hawley, said to have been in charge of the squat, with the bleach bottle and cloth just a few feet from the same room.
‘Gregory said “I’ve got to clean up some blood because someone got seriously hurt last night”.
‘He was on his way to the torture chamber, the room where I heard the screaming,’ said Mr Mallia.
Referring to a second conversation about an hour later, Mr Mallia said he and his partner were told by Hawley that he had been involved in a killing, and how he had then described the efforts made to destroy any forensic evidence.
‘Gregory said we couldn’t stay there. I said “Why?” and he said “We killed someone last night”.
Pictured: Officers on scene after Mr Henham was found dead at the building in Brighton
‘I was like “Yeah mate, whatever”. I didn’t believe him,’ he told the jury.
‘He said “We killed someone last night”. Not I, but We. He said we couldn’t stay there and as we were going he said “We had to finish him off because he heard my name. Someone said my name”.
‘I thought he was chatting s**t, just talking out his a**e….He said “We stripped the body naked and I poured bleach all over the body to get rid of everybody’s DNA”.’
Mr Mallia claimed Hawley had also described how Mr Henham took his last breath, and even asked him if he wanted to see the body.
‘I said “You’re mad” and still didn’t believe him. He was boasting about it, seemed really happy….He said “We stripped the body, I poured bleach over the body, and we threw the body out of the third-floor window”.
‘He invited me to see the body. I said “No, I don’t want to see the body”. But I didn’t believe him, to tell you the truth. I thought he was lying, but obviously not.’
Jurors were told one of Billy’s accused killers boasted about what they done after the attack while moving to a different squat. Pictured: the disused building where Billy was found
The court heard the alleged boasting continued once everyone had moved to a second squat nearby.
Gordon-Carew, who Mr Mallia referred to as ‘Els’, and Spence, who he called ‘Mask’, were also present.
‘Mask and Els were bragging about what they did to who I now know was Billy, saying “I punched him, I kicked him”, laughing and joking about it,’ Mr Mallia said.
‘(They said) “We took him in a room, we beat him up, we were kicking and punching him”.’
Mr Mallia later picked out Hawley, Gordon-Carew and Meikle in police identity procedures. He referred to Meikle as ‘well-spoken’ and said he was the man who had told him to leave the area of the ‘screaming room’.
At the start of the trial, prosecutor James Mulholland QC told the jury that although the motive for Mr Henham’s alleged murder was ‘unclear’, all four defendants had participated in the joint attack in the early hours of New Year’s Day, 2020.
All four men deny murder and the trial at Maidstone Crown Court is expected to last six weeks
‘William Henham was subjected to a sustained assault before his body was dropped over a balcony and he was found naked, laying on his back on a low-level outdoor roof terrace,’ he said.
‘The prosecution’s case is that each defendant either joined in the physical attack upon William Henham or deliberately helped or encouraged one or more of the others to do so.
‘Each intended in doing so that he be caused at least really serious injury and they are all guilty of murder.’
The court was told forensic evidence showed the attack had in fact started on the second floor of the building before a bleeding Mr Henham, later described by his family as ‘gentle, kind and peaceful’, had been dragged or pulled to a small room measuring no more than 4m by 2m on the first-floor for the beating to continue.
It was this room that Mr Mallia referred to in his evidence as ‘the torture chamber’ or ‘screaming room’.
Although experts were said to have later linked the defendants to the alleged murder through their DNA, fingerprints, bloodstained clothing and trainer marks, Mr Mulholland told the jury they had shown ‘a significant degree of forensic awareness’ in their efforts to cover their tracks.
As well as allegedly stripping Mr Henham of his clothes, of which only his trainers were found, and cleaning his body, areas of bloodstaining appeared to have been diluted, the court was told.
Traces of disinfectant in his hair were said to be ‘indistinguishable’ from the liquid in the bottle on which Hawley’s DNA was discovered.
Gordon-Carew, of Cheeseman Close, Hampton, Middlesex, Hawley, of no fixed address, Meikle, of Amberley Drive, Hove, and Spence, of Makepeace Road, Northolt, Middlesex, all deny murder.
Their trial is expected to last six weeks.