Tom Bell murder trial: Alleged killer's ex tells jury she believes he stashed gun and says she 'had to speak up and do the right thing'
“Please don’t judge my actions when you don’t know what position I was put in,” the ex-girlfriend of a man accused of murdering a Doncaster boxer in a pub shooting told a jury this afternoon.
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 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.
The former partner of Bennia, Lauren Thompson, gave evidence at Sheffield Crown Court today.
She told the jury of eight women and four men that early on the morning after Mr Bell’s murder, Bennia got her to drive him to a cemetery, after picking up a shovel from his mother’s house.
Ms Thompson said Bennia left the car and returned some time later with a bag over his shoulder, before picking up the shovel and heading to bushes in a ‘wooded area,’ where she believes Bennia disposed of the bag.
Representing Goucoul, Katherine Goddard QC asked Ms Thompson: “What did you think he had in the bag?”
She replied: “The gun, because he told me.”
Ms Goddard questioned how Ms Thompson could be sure what Bennia did in the cemetery, or that he disposed of a bag in a wooded area there, given how dark it was during their early-morning visit.
“Because when he told me that night, he said Scott [Gocoul] had hid it in the bushes,” replied Ms Thompson, adding that Bennia had used a torch, and she could see him in the bushes from where she was sat in her car.
Ms Thompson said Bennia told her that Goucoul had asked him to take him to the same cemetery on the night of the murder, and upon arrival Goucoul ‘got out, ran to the bottom and just threw it’.
The court heard how both defendants were in custody by January 21, after being arrested on suspicion of Mr Bell’s murder.
Ms Goddard asked Ms Thompson why, given her concerns about Bennia’s involvement in Mr Bell’s murder and the fact the couple had broken up in early February, she did not give a full account to the police until the end of February.
“I had to do the right thing, I had to speak up,” said Ms Thompson.
Ms Thompson also claimed she felt too ‘frightened’ to go to the police, after receiving a message from Bennia in which he said Goucoul would ‘blow up’ her house.
Referring to text messages taken from Ms Thompson’s phone, Ms Goddard said: “Where in that is this threat that Scott Goucoul is going to burn or blow up your house?”
“I definitely know there’s a message saying it, because I screenshotted it and sent it to my friend,” said Ms Thompson.
Describing Bennia’s treatment of her, Ms Thompson said: “No-one understands what that boy has put me through, how he’s threatened me, and treat[ed] me...please don’t judge my actions when you don’t know what position I was put in.”
Under cross-examination from Bennia’s barrister, Christopher Tehrani QC, Ms Thompson agreed she was aware that both Bennia and Goucoul were drug dealers, and that she had encouraged Bennia to leave the drugs trade.
Mr Tehrani asked Ms Thompson whether she was ‘happy’ for Bennia to spend money on her that had come from drug dealing.
She replied: “I didn’t like where the money had come from, but I always [offered to] pay my way.”
Mr Tehrani told the court that Ms Thompson’s father is a prison officer and her brother is a serving police officer, and asked her why she did not immediately go to one, or both, of them for help.
“I didn’t tell anyone about it, I didn’t know what to do,” said Ms Thompson, adding: “How do you go to your dad and say: ‘My boyfriend’s killed someone or been involved in this?’.”
She said she subsequently confided in her father after the murder charge brought against Bennia had been made public.
Questioning Ms Thompson’s version of events, Mr Tehrani asked: “Are you telling the truth or are you making this up as you go along?”
She replied: “No, I’m not making it up.”
Bennia and Goucoul both deny murdering Mr Bell.
The trial continues.