A lab worker accused of murdering a colleague searched the internet for pornography and Googled details of serial killers in the hours after disposing of her body, a jury has heard.
Ross McCullum has admitted the manslaughter of 23-year-old Megan Newborough, but denies having murderous intent when he strangled her and cut her throat with a knife at his home.
A trial at Leicester Crown Court heard McCullum was found to have conducted internet searches linked to Levi Bellfield, Soham killer Ian Huntley and Yorkshire ripper Peter Sutcliffe.
Prosecutors allege McCullum murdered Megan between 8.08pm and 8.49pm on Friday August 6 last year, and set off at around 9pm in his victim’s car to dump her body in a country lane.
Jurors have been told McCullum, of Windsor Close, Coalville, left Megan’s Citroen C3 in a car park at Loughborough College, where he dumped bloodstained clothing, shortly before 10pm on August 6.
Continuing his opening speech to the jury on Thursday, prosecutor John Cammegh KC said McCullum took a taxi back to Coalville, arriving home at about 10.45pm.
Mr Cammegh said McCullum then texted Miss Newborough’s phone with a messages reading “Did you get back alright baby” and “I guessing you’ve gone bed or your phone has died so I’ll talk to you in the morning and then we can go round yours.”
Describing evidence found by analysis of phone records, the prosecutor told the jury: “The defendant engaged in a great deal of this – surfing the internet – over the coming hours and into the next day, Saturday 7th August.
“You may think the record of his internet browsing provides a twenty-twenty insight not just as to what the defendant was looking at online, but, more so perhaps, into his very mindset.”
At 11.18pm, the court heard, McCullum Googled “How to tell a girl you love her” and nine minutes later left a voicemail for Miss Newborough in which he said he was worried about her and loved her.
After playing the “self-serving” voicemail to the jury, Mr Cammegh added: “For what reason was that sent other than to create a false alibi?
“Between that time and about 1am on Saturday morning he browses various YouTube channels and websites .
“Having Googled the weather forecast, he asks a question of Google search – ‘What is club soda for cleaning?’ Why would he be looking at that?”
Taking jurors through a series of searches, messages and voicemails, Mr Cammegh continued: “Having Googled the serial killer, sex offender, rapist and kidnapper Levi Bellfield on various occasions, it appears that the defendant falls asleep.”
The court heard internet phone records appeared to show McCullum was awake by 6.34am on Saturday, again searching for details of Bellfield and then looking at the news, including a report about a terrorist incident in Streatham.
McCullum then opened a pornography website with “a clear emphasis on domination” and opened “perhaps dozens” of browser windows over the a 16-minute period, Mr Cammegh said.
During the browsing, the court heard, McCullum broke off to send a text to Miss Newborough, who lived in Nuneaton, which read “Morning Baby”.
Throughout Saturday morning, the court heard, Miss Newborough’s family were frantically attempting to contact her.
McCullum is alleged to have made further calls “feigning concern” for Miss Newborough, who he met while working at brick-maker Ibstock, at 8.35am and 8.37am on August 7.
The defendant then made a search relating to Bellfield on a third occasion, and one relating to Huntley, Mr Cammegh said, before “the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe makes an appearance” in the internet history.
At 9.58am on Saturday, the court heard, McCullum’s phone was used to send a message to Miss Newborough reading: “Babe I’m getting worried, you didn’t message or call me last night or today. Please respond because I’m getting really worried about you.”
Taking the jury through phone record charts, Mr Cammegh said: “Over the pages that follow the defendant continues to Google and search on YouTube about the news, weather, Dr Death – Britain’s biggest serial killer, and about Loughborough College.”
Concluding his opening speech, Mr Cammegh submitted to the court: “The Crown’s case is that the defendant knew exactly what he was doing when he killed Megan – that he acted with sustained purpose, using considerable force, and thereafter conducted himself with precision and icy detachment.
“At all times, we say, he was in control.
“If having considered all the evidence you have any reasonable doubts you will, of course, acquit. The Crown’s case is that having heard the evidence in full you will be left without a shadow of doubt that Ross McCullum murdered Megan Newborough.”
Following the Crown’s opening of the case, defence barrister Kerim Fuad KC gave a brief address to highlight the issues facing the jury in the trial.
McCullum, who has no previous convictions, claims to have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of sexual abuse as a child.
Mr Fuad said: “He (McCullum) has accepted that he unlawfully killed her by strangling her.
“It is, put simply, the defence case that at the time he strangled her, he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of a series of acts upon him as a child.
“His case is that he did not have, nor could have, any reason, wish or any intention for Miss Newborough to be killed or to be the victim of any unlawful violence, but for the post-traumatic stress disorder that consumed him at that time, in the sitting room.”
McCullum, aged 30, denies murder. The trial continues.