MURDER TRIAL: Jury told of carnage at remote farm which left former Fenland man dead and another man injured

Billy Martindale

Billy Martindale - Credit: Archant

A BLOODY story of the death of a former Fenland man at a remote Essex farm is unfolding before a jury this week.

Billy Martindale

Billy Martindale - Credit: Archant

A hushed court heard horrific allegations that two men were subjected to a frenzied attack with a pick-axe handle which left one of them dead and the other badly injured.

Billy Martindale at the graveside of his best friend Tommy Shepherd who was was murdered.

Billy Martindale at the graveside of his best friend Tommy Shepherd who was was murdered. - Credit: Archant

The accused, Paul Groves, 34, of Queensway, Ongar, has pleaded not guilty to murdering William (Billy) Martindale, 39, at Meadow View Farm, High Ongar, on 7 September last year.

Mr Martindale, who grew up in Manea in the Fens from the age of 10 to 17 and attended Cromwell Community College in Chatteris, died from severe head injuries. He had a fractured skull, bleeding under the skull, damaged nerve endings in his brain, fractured cheekbone and eye sockets.

Groves also denies wounding Paul Meeking, 54, of Barking, who was hospitalised for four days by an attack in which he claims Groves beat him with the pick-axe handle, bit him and gouged his eyes.

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The court was told that Groves went to the smallholding after phoning Mr Martindale about a dispute over a cannabis crop.

However, when he and another unknown man arrived, it is alleged he punched Martindale unconscious as he sat at a picnic table.

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He is then said to have turned on Mr Meeking who had armed himself with the pick-axe handle, wrested it from him and then, while the other unidentified man held Mr Meeking, attacked him with it.

After that he is said to have returned to Mr Martindale who was still unconscious and bludgeoned him to death - swinging the pick-axe handle over the back of his head.

Prosecutor, Simon Spence QC Mr Martindale and Groves had been friends for years but Mr Martindale complained that Groves had not paid over money he was due for a third cannabis crop.

Mr Meeking told the jury he had the pick-axe handle when Groves and the other man arrived because he was not sure that Groves would not come “mob handed.”

“It was for my protection” he said but claimed it was later taken from him by Groves who then used it on him and Mr Martindale.

Mr Meeking said Groves attacked Mr Martindale, punching him four or five times.

“I hit Groves with the pick-axe handle.” Groves said: ‘ He ‘ s f, hit me, he ‘ s hit me. He had a bottle in his hand and came towards me.”

He added: “I was hit five times with the pick- axe handle, got poked in the eye and my thumb pulled back. I was bit in the chest. Groves got on top of me and I was grappling with him.”

“ Groves walked off from me and I heard the pick- axe handle on a table - wood on wood - and someone shouted out: ‘ He ‘ s dead. ‘ ”

Mr Spence said the injuries were in keeping with the pick-axe handle being swung from overhead and with direct impact blows to the back of the head and added: “These blows, the prosecution say, killed Mr Martindale.”

Groves was arrested about an hour later. A pick-axe handle, with Mr Martindale’s skin, hair and blood on, was found in Groves’ van.

Cross-examined, Mr Meeking denied a suggestion that his best friend liked to portray himself “as a bit of a gangster”.

He said Mr Martindale was “a larger than life character” and liked to be known as Billy Boy.

He agreed with defence QC Graham Trembath that Mr Martindale had a passion for guns and that he had posted a video of himself on YouTube spinning the chamber of a revolver and saying “Sexiest sound in the world”.

“I was there when he filmed it. It was at a house in Wales where the gun belonged to someone else.”

Mr Meeking denied that his friend posed as “a hard man, gangster type or criminal type”. He added: “There were a lot of people who put stuff on YouTube about him because they didn’t like him. They used to put reports of Billy Boy this, Billy Boy that and he turned round and said ‘Give them something to talk about’.”

The hearing continues,

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