Man ‘lured to his death and body burned on fire’

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A retired police officer was killed and his body burned on a bonfire by a businessman who had become obsessed with his wife, a jury heard yesterday.

Kenneth Bill, 63, is alleged to have hatched an elaborate plan to lure John Hay to an industrial unit in Meltham, Huddersfield, by pretending to be a prospective customer for the self-employed builder.

The prosecution alleges Bill pushed or knocked Mr Hay down a steep flight of metal steps at the Meltham Mills unit before attacking him and using a horse trailer to transport his body to land near his home in Thongsbridge where it was burned.

Opening the case to the jury at Bradford Crown Court, prosecutor Robert Smith QC described in detail how Bill had driven his victim’s white van to a car park near the Humber Bridge in a bid to make it look as if the missing husband had committed suicide.

Bill then caught a train back to Huddersfield and after disposing of the body in the fire he allegedly took bin-bags containing the remains to local waste disposal sites.

Mr Smith revealed Bill had rekindled a relationship with the 61-year-old’s wife Carol, who had been his girlfriend more than 40 years before. The court heard Mrs Hay, who had health problems at the time, realised her mistake and told Bill the relationship was over, but Mr Smith said the defendant convinced himself that with John Hay dead there would be no obstacle to a permanent relationship.

“The defendant, a man of 61 years of age with grown up children and his own business, had plainly become obsessed with Carol Hay,” said Mr Smith. “He had closed his mind to the obvious fact that the relationship was going nowhere.”

Mr Smith said Bill, of Upper Hagg Road, Thongsbridge, 
Holmfirth, refused to accept the relationship was over and allegedly told his own business partner about his initial plan to lure “the husband” to the unit and to dispose of the body by dissolving it in sulphuric acid.

The court was told Bill had a 1000-litre plastic container delivered to the unit, but he later told his colleague he now had a Plan B and asked him to “pick holes in it”.

Mr Smith told the jury he now planned to dispose of the body in the sea leaving the dead man’s clothes on the shore, making it look like suicide.

The jury heard CCTV recordings and mobile phone analysis indicated Bill had been in the vicinity of the Humber Bridge two weeks before Mr Hay’s disappearance in March.

Mr Hay was never seen again by his family after he dropped his grand-daughter off at school on March 15.

Mr Smith told the court Mrs Hay suspected Bill may have been involved and told the police about their relationship.

Scientific investigations at the industrial unit revealed blood-staining and a tooth which matched Mr Hay’s DNA profile.

Mr Smith alleged that the scene of the bonfire showed clear evidence a body had been burned and bones from a foot were recovered. A piece of paper found in Bill’s home appeared to be a note of the murder plan, while his computer revealed searches for the Humber Bridge and train times as well as sulphuric and nitric acid.

Bill has denied the murder charge and in initial police interviews said he had never met Mr Hay, of Fenay Bridge, and was not involved in his murder.

But Mr Smith said Bill later tried to explain the death of Mr Hay as an accident or self-defence, claiming he had wanted to tell him about the relationship with his wife and had set up a meeting.

Bill said he gave Mr Hay a letter telling him about the relationship while they were in the upstairs office at the unit and after reading it Mr Hay had gone for him.

He claimed that he had been chased down the steps and that as the two men were struggling Mr Hay collapsed and died.

Bill claimed that he had then decided to burn the body and take the van to the bridge because he knew that Mr Hay had been depressed about his own mother’s illness.

He said he later shovelled ashes from the fire into bags which he took the tip and tried to clean up the unit with bleach.

The trial continues.