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Boy, 17, found guilty of murder of strangled teaching assistant

A teenager has been found guilty of murdering teaching assistant Lindsay Birbeck before moving her body in a wheelie bin and dumping it in a nearby cemetery.

The 17-year-old strangled the 47-year-old mother-of-two, who was found wrapped in two plastic bags at the back of a cemetery in August 24 last year.

The discovery of her body, by a dog walker, was made 12 days after she went missing from her home in Accrington, Lancs.

A post-mortem found the mum-of-two, who had left her home for a walk when she went missing, had died as a result of compression of the neck.

The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was today found guilty of her murder following a trial at Preston Crown Court.

Jury members had previously heard how the teenager, who was 16 at the time, had killed Mrs Birbeck in a woodland before moving her body to Accrington Cemetery in a wheelie bin. 

He attended a police station several days after Mrs Birbeck was found, when police released a CCTV clip of a young male pulling a blue wheelie bin behind him on Burnley Road. 

He went on to admit dragging the bin from the Coppice on August 17 – with Mrs Birbeck inside – across Burnley Road to the cemetery where he buried her.

Prior to her murder, Mrs Birbeck had left her home in for a late afternoon walk to a nearby wooded area known as the Coppice.

She had invited her teenage daughter, Sarah, and Sarah’s boyfriend over for tea at 6pm.

But when she did not return from her walk, her worried family raised the alarm.

The court heard her attacker had been on the prowl in the woods for lone females and is thought to have killed Mrs Birbeck shortly after she entered the Coppice.

Shortly before Mrs Birbeck entered the Coppice, another woman said she feared for her safety when a lone male wearing a grey tracksuit and his hood up followed her on her walk. 

On Wednesday, a jury at Preston Crown Court convicted the youngster guilty of murder after deliberating for more than four hours. 

The verdict was returned exactly a year after the murder of Mrs Birbeck, who had split up from her husband and moved to a new home in March last year after she started a new relationship.

The teenager had previously pleaded guilty to assisting in the disposal of her body but claimed he played no role in her death.

He said he was offered ‘a lot of money’ by a mystery man to ‘get rid of the body’.  

He stated: ‘I have not met this man before. I have not met him since, nor have I had any contact with him. He has not paid me any money.

‘He told me that he would leave the money for me near where the body had been at first once everything was clear.’

The Crown Prosecution Service did not accept his version of events and said the defendant’s account was ‘implausible fiction’.

Sentencing is expected to take place on Friday. 

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