Murder accused believed Rotherham love rival was plotting to kill him, court told

The body of Craig Preston was found by dog walkers near to the Woodhead Pass on August 22 last year
The body of Craig Preston was found by dog walkers near to the Woodhead Pass on August 22 last year

A man accused of killing his love rival in a Rotherham lay-by believed a ‘hit’ had been taken out on his life, a court heard.

From January last year Shiraz Bashir, 42, had an on-and-off again relationship with Leonie Mason, and intended on marrying her, Sheffield Crown Court was told.

Bashir told jurors today how in the weeks running up to the murder of Mason’s former lover Craig Preston on August 22, 2016, both Mason and Mr Preston had informed him that a plan to kill him had been put into motion.

Bashir said Mason told him about the ‘hit’ during a Skype video conversation on August 5, when she told him she had resumed her relationship with Mr Preston in a bid to protect him.

He said: “She said she left because there was a hit out on my name. Leonie told me that when it was my day off they were going to come in to my house and beat the living hell out of me.”

Defending Bashir, Jo Siddhu, asked him: “Did you take it seriously?”

Bashir replied: “I took it very seriously. The way she told me was so convincing that I really thought it was going to happen.”

Later that day Mason and Bashir, both of Holme Park Court, Huddersfield continued the conversation on Skype messenger, when Bashir said: “Once he’s out of the way I’m going to sort those other guys out.”

When asked what he meant by ‘once he’s out of the way,’ Bashir told the court he meant that once he had resolved his differences with Mr Preston it would leave the couple free to continue with their life.

Bashir told the court that on August 6, when he was waiting in the car park to Mr Preston’s flat in Montgomery Square, Wath-upon-Dearne to pick up Mason, Mr Preston shouted from the balcony: “I’ve got a hit out on you”.

Giving evidence last week, Mason claimed Bashir had assaulted Mr Preston with a metal bar a short time later.

Bashir denies this.

Following the altercation on August 6, Mason left Mr Preston and resumed her relationship with Bashir, the court heard.

Mr Preston was murdered in a lay-by in Town Lane, Rotherham in the early hours of August 22 last year.

His body was found by dog walkers near to the Woodhead Pass on the morning of August 22.

Mason, Bashir and three 15-year-old boys, who cannot be named for legal reasons, face one charge of murder.

All five defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge at an earlier hearing.

The trial continues.