A lab worker strangled a colleague, cut her throat to make sure she was dead, and then dumped her body in undergrowth beside a country lane, a murder trial has heard.
A jury at Leicester Crown Court was told that Ross McCullum killed Megan Newborough at his home and immediately staged a “calculated and carefully executed” cover-up, including leaving phone messages professing love and supposed concern for her.
McCullum, 30, admits manslaughter but denies murdering 23-year-old Miss Newborough, claiming a “loss of control” or abnormality of mind meant he was not able to form an intent to cause serious harm.
Opening the prosecution’s case on Tuesday, John Cammegh KC said the victim first met McCullum in late June last year at Leicestershire-based brick company Ibstock, where she worked in human resources.
Alleging that McCullum murdered Miss Newborough after she drove to her co-worker’s home on the evening of Friday August 6 last year, Mr Cammegh said the pair had exchanged flirtatious messages during the previous weeks.
The prosecutor told the court: “The Crown’s case is that sometime between about 8.15pm and 8.50pm… the defendant, Ross McCullum, murdered Megan Newborough at his home address in Coalville, Leicestershire.
“The Crown’s case is that the violent manner of Megan’s death leaves no room for doubt that the defendant intended to do so.”
Jurors were told that Miss Newborough had been in “a relationship of sorts” with McCullum for about a month by the time she was killed, after exchanging thousands of WhatsApp messages with him.
During the brief relationship, Miss Newborough is said to have “indulged the defendant with nothing but empathy, kindness and endless patience”.
The court heard that she set off from her parents’ home in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, at 7.30pm on August 6 in her Citroen C3, which McCullum later used to move her body.
Detailing the evidence the Crown intends to rely on, Mr Cammegh told the jury: “On Friday 6th August, the defendant and Megan Newborough arranged at short notice via the WhatsApp messaging app to meet that same evening.
“He would have shown her into the front room. And at some point within the next 30 to 40 minutes he attacked her with great violence.”
Mr Cammegh went on: “First, he strangled her with his bare hands.
“Following her death, Megan’s body would be examined by a forensic pathologist, Dr Frances Hollingbury, who you will hear from later in this trial.
“She concluded that ‘pressure to the neck’, or strangulation, was the cause of Megan’s death.”
The jury heard that McCullum, of Windsor Close, Coalville, told police after his arrest that he had cut his victim’s throat with a knife to “make sure” she was dead.
Post-mortem tests carried out after Megan’s body was discovered near Woodhouse Eaves in Leicestershire found 14 neck wounds.
McCullum is also alleged to have attempted to clean up bloodstains on a carpet and fetched himself a change of clothing before disposing of Miss Newborough’s body and leaving her vehicle in a car park in Loughborough.
Mr Cammegh told the jury: “As I have mentioned to you, the defendant accepts he killed Megan but he denies murder.
“You may be wondering what his defence is. In essence he says that he was incapable, either through a temporary loss of control or an abnormality of the mind, to form the intent to kill her or to do her really serious harm.
“Given that defence you may wish to consider the relevance of the defendant’s behaviour from the moment when he strangled Megan, throughout the night that followed and into the next day.
“The Crown’s case is that the defendant embarked immediately upon a series of deliberate actions carefully calculated and carefully executed to cover up Megan’s murder and his role in it.
“The Crown say this behaviour conclusively exposes the fact that he was not momentarily struck by an irresistible wave of emotion or some other disability of the mind, committing a terrible act in difficult circumstances, but that he was a cunning and resourceful murderer.”
During the prosecution’s opening speech, the jury was told “inappropriate” behaviour by McCullum was noticed by his workplace boss on August 5 and 6.
Mr Cammegh said the killer, a former labourer and cleaner, had joined Ibstock’s laboratory around 18 months before.
On the day of the killing, the manager “became troubled by the defendant’s increasingly juvenile behaviour”, which included throwing clay around the room, the court heard.
The Crown’s opening speech will continue on Wednesday.