Vigilante gang leader faces jail

Witney Gazette: A woman has been found guilty of leading a vigilante gang who tortured and brutally killed a teenager wrongly accused of rape A woman has been found guilty of leading a vigilante gang who tortured and brutally killed a teenager wrongly accused of rape

A woman is facing a life sentence for leading a vigilante gang who tortured and brutally killed a teenager wrongly accused of rape.

Emma Hall, 21, showed no emotion as she was found guilty of murdering Luke Harwood, 18, at the Old Bailey. Her friends James Danby, 27, and Tony O'Toole, 30, were also convicted of murder.

Mr Harwood was killed in May last year after an 18-year-old girl pointed him out to Hall during a chance meeting and claimed she had been raped by him two years before. She had made a complaint to police but the matter was dropped when she withdrew the allegation. Police found no evidence that a rape had taken place.

The teenager and Hall were visiting friends at a house in Romford, Essex, where Mr Harwood was also staying. He was beaten up in a room and dumped on wasteground in Woodford Green, east London.

Simon Denison QC, prosecuting, said: "She told the others that he was the person she had told Hall about at the time who had raped her. The men, over a prolonged period of time, severely beat him up by punching and kicking him to the head, so he was bleeding heavily from his injuries and his face was terribly swollen."

Hall then drove Danby, O'Toole and Mr Harwood to a lane where he was taken to the bank of a stream and "finished off". Mr Denison said: "They killed him by punching and kicking him and stamping on his head many, many times. The bones in his face were crushed."

The killers then bought petrol and set fire to their bloody clothing before cleaning up bloodstains at the house. The following evening, Hall drove them and another man to the spot where the body had been covered with a mattress and other rubbish.

Mr Denison said: "They had with them knives and a pair of bolt cutters that they were intending to use to mutilate his body to make it more difficult for him to be identified by cutting off his fingers and removing his teeth."

But Hall had secretly tipped off police to divert guilt from herself and officers were waiting for them when they arrived. Mr Denison told the jury: "His murder was quite extraordinarily callous, violent and brutal."

Hall and Danby were also found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm with intent and perverting justice. O'Toole was also found guilty of perverting justice and conspiracy to pervert justice along with Danby. Billy Duggan, 21, was found guilty of perverting justice and conspiracy to pervert justice. The defendants, who were all from Romford, were remanded in custody to be sentenced next week.

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