Man accused of murdering Doncaster boxer got girlfriend to take him to graveyard so he could stash gun, jury told

A man accused of murdering a boxer who was fatally shot in a Doncaster pub got his girlfriend to drive him to a graveyard where he is alleged to have stashed the murder weapon, a court heard.

By Sarah Marshall
Wednesday, 19 June, 2019, 15:29

Scott Goucoul, 28, and Joseph Bennia, 30, both of no fixed abode, are accused of the murder of 21-year-old Tom Bell, who was fatally shot at the Maple Tree pub in Balby, Doncaster at 8.44pm on January 17 this year.

The prosecution allege that one of the two defendants acted as the gunman, while the other acted as the getaway driver, and waited in a stolen BMW on a roundabout yards away from the pub as the fatal shooting was carried out

Boxer Tom Bell was fatally shot at the Maple Tree pub in Balby, Doncaster on January 17 this year

During the second day of their trial today, prosecutor, Nicholas Campbell QC, told the jury that during the course of the trial they would hear evidence from Bennia’s partner, Lauren Thompson, about his behaviour following the fatal attack on Mr Bell and his trip to a graveyard with a shovel and his attempts to conceal the bag believed to contain the murder weapon.

Mr Campbell went through the account of events Ms Thompson gave to police, and detailed how on the night of the murder she received a text message from Bennia at 9.20pm – a matter of minutes after Mr Bell was shot – in which he asked her to phone him urgently.

“He told her: ‘I need you to come and get me as soon as you can’,” said Mr Campbell, adding that Bennia refused to tell her what was wrong over the phone.

Sheffield Crown Court heard how when she picked him up in her Citreon motor vehicle a short time later, he told her to ‘just drive’; but she continued to press him about what had happened.

Tom Bell's funeral was held at St Peters in Chains Church, Doncaster on February 18 this year

Mr Campbell told the jury: “She told him: ‘I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what’s happened’. It was only then that he said this: ‘I think Scott [Goucoul]’s done something’...he said he was getting calls saying Scott had shot someone and it was thought that he was involved and had been there as well.”

Ms Thompson told police that Bennia insisted he had not been involved, and said he ‘needed to get away’ because it was ‘not safe’ for him at his mother’s home.

A decision was made for the couple to stay at a hotel in Sheffield, and Ms Thompson drove them to the Premier Inn located on Sheffield Road, Meadowhall, the court heard.

A floral tribute used at Tom Bell's funeral at St Peters in Chains Church, Doncaster on February 18 this year

“Joey Bennia turned his phone on to airplane mode, and aside from leaving Doncaster, she thought that alone made him look guilty,” said Mr Campbell.

Ms Thompson said Bennia paid for a room at the Premier Inn, but a short time later told her they ‘needed to leave’ after she witnessed him having a conversation with a friend near the entrance to the hotel; and they moved to the Holiday Inn Express in Blonk Street, Sheffield city centre where they stayed overnight.

Mr Campbell said that during the course of the evening, Ms Thompson continued to ask Bennia what his involvement in Mr Bell’s death had been and he provided conflicting accounts.

She claims he initially told her he was at home when the shooting took place with no knowledge of any plan to harm Mr Bell and then subsequently told her that he asked Gocoul to drop him off at home because he ‘didn’t want anything to do with it,’ before changing his version of events again, claiming that when the murder took place he was ‘ages away in the other car down the back lane’.

A floral tribute to Tom Bell at his funeral in February this year

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The jury were told yesterday it is the Crown’s case that Bennia and Goucoul drove in a convoy to White Cross Lane, with one of the defendants travelling in a 4x4 vehicle owned by Goucoul’s partner, and the other in a stolen BMW.

The prosecution allege Gocoul and Bennia travelled to and back from the murder scene in the stolen BMW, before burning it out, and fleeing the scene in the 4x4.

Mr Campbell said Bennia told her that Goucoul asked her to burn his clothes, which he did on the night of the murder in his mother’s back garden because he believed he would be out of the view of any surveillance cameras.

“He confided in her that Scott Gocoul had told him to take him to a cemetery and he had done just that...when they got to the cemetery Scott got out of the car, ran down to the bottom, and in the words he used: ‘threw it [a bag]’.”

Ms Thompson told police that Bennia asked her to drive him to her mother’s house early the following morning so he could pick up some ‘things he needed’.

Floral tributes outside the Maple Tree, Balby where Tom Bell died on January 17. Picture: Marie Caley

“Once there, he fetched out two bags of what she assumed were clothes...he was carrying a shovel in his hand. He was holding it by the sleeve of his jumper,” said Mr Campbell, adding that the couple then drove off, and Ms Thompson was under the impression they would be heading straight back to Sheffield.

According to Ms Thompson’s evidence, Bennia directed her to Warmsworth Cemetery instead.

“She asked him what he was doing. He said: ‘Just wait there,’ gave her a kiss, and set off, ran through the graveyard and some bushes at the bottom.

“Joey Bennia returned to the car with a bag on his back. In fact, all she could really see was the strap, but given what she had been told, that the gun to murder Tom Bell was in the bag, she didn’t ask [any questions]. He got hold of the shovel, and ran off into a wooded area nearby,” said Mr Campbell.

He added: “In due course, Joey Bennia returned, no bag, no shovel. He said he hadn’t been able to dig the ground because it had been too hard so he had just put a load of stuff over it. He used the word limestone. He said he had thrown away the shovel.”

The jury were told how officers recovered a shovel during a search of Warmsworth Cemetery on January 25 this year, which Ms Thompson identified as the one Bennia brought with him from his mother’s address.

“Searches continued, but to date, the gun used to kill Tom Bell has not been accounted for,” said Mr Campbell.

Goucoul was arrested on suspicion of Mr Bell’s murder on January 19, while Bennia was arrested on January 21.

Both defendants were charged with Mr Bell’s murder on January 23, a charge they both deny.

The trial, which is expected to last five weeks, continues.