`

'Gay bashing plan' of murder trial trio

THREE friends agreed to go "gay-bashing" before beating a man to death, a murder trial was told.

Malcolm Benfold died of horrific head injuries following an attack on Middle Walk, a well-known gay meeting place on Blackpool seafront, in the early hours of January 30.

Marc Goodwin, 23, James McNamee, 27, and Joe Williams, 23, all deny murder.

Mr Benfold, 57, of Bute Avenue, North Shore, had met up with two men for a "sexual relationship" at Middle Walk, the jury at Preston Crown Court was told.

Howard Bentham QC, prosecuting, said the alleged attackers had decided to visit the area with the express intention of beating up gay men.

Mr Bentham said: "McNamee and Goodwin said 'let's do some gay-bashing', the third defendant Williams agreed with that plan. Two of the men (attacked) escaped. At least one had money stolen from him, but they escaped with their lives.

"Malcolm Benfold did not.

"He was struck with some sort of weapon, probably a glass bottle, fell to the ground and was then certainly subjected to a repeated number of blows with either fist or foot, after which he died.

"Goodwin, we say, was the one who paid most attention to Malcolm Benfold. But when three people make an agreement such as 'lets do some gay bashing' and come across three victims, it doesn't matter if one was rather more thorough than the others. We say by beating him in such a way to kill him that at the time he was killed all three intended either that he should die or suffer some really serious bodily harm."

Police later found a bottle near to the Hilton Hotel on North Promenade which had been "scientifically" linked to the beating.

The court also heard from the two men who had been with Mr Benfold at the time of the attack.

Mark Batchelor of Grange Park said he had been walking away from Mr Benfold and a third man when he heard someone shout "come out or come on you queers".

He added: "I was being faced up by a medium sized man who said one word, 'money'.

"He was blocking my way aggressively, I cowered away.

"I was scrabbling to get my wallet out when I received two blows to the head with a plastic bottle. At the same time I removed a 20 note and passed it to him."

Scotsman Peter Vickers, 52, was staying in a resort hotel when he visited Middle Walk.

He was hit to the side of the head, the prosecution say.

Mr Batchelor and Mr Vickers both fled the scene at which time the prosecution say the gang turned on Mr Benfold.

His body was found at around 4am. Police believed it had been on the seafront since about 2am.

Goodwin, McNamee and Williams, all of Knowle Avenue, North Shore, deny murdering Mr Benfold and robbing Mr Vickers.

Goodwin further denies robbing Mr Batchelor.

(Proceeding)

Today's other top stories

Pupils give Arnie taste of Blackpool

Tributes paid to sea death dad

Pool boss rues one that got away