Three convicted of murdering Harold Hill teen Luke Harwood
- Credit: Archant
A psychopathic “monster” and two accomplices who stamped slightly-built Luke Harwood to death are facing life sentences after being found guilty of murder today
James Danby, 27, Emma Hall, 21, and Tony O’Toole, 30, killed the Harold Hill teenager after he was wrongly accused of rape.
Danby and O’Toole jumped on Luke’s head until it popped, then hid the 18-year-old’s body under a mattress in a stream.
Danby spent the following day bragging about the grisly details of the murder and that the killing had promoted him into the “A-Team” of crime.
He planned to slice off the Harold Hill teen’s fingers and pull out his teeth to prevent his body being identified.
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But he was arrested on the journey to the body with a pair of pliers and three kitchen knives after second accomplice, Hall, could stand the violence no longer and called police.
Luke’s horrific death so incensed friends and family that a team of police officers from the Territorial Support Group was brought into the Old Bailey to keep them apart from supporters of the defendants.
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His mother sat through the entire case and wept as some of the “extraordinary evidence of sheer brutality” was put before the court.
One police officer said: “There is only one word you can use to describe James Danby - psychopath.”
The killers tried to blame each other for the killing and O’Toole said Danby was a “monster” who had destroyed all their lives.
But the three were all convicted of murder after the jury spent ten days deliberating.
Jovan Roberts, 28, was cleared of murder.
As the jury deliberated Luke’s sister Charmaine Harwood gave birth to a baby boy who was named Luke in his honour.
Billy Duggan, 21, was convicted of perverting the course of justice
and the final charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Khalid Hassan, 20, was cleared of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Luke, who was 5ft 7ins tall and weighed just seven stone, was one of a family of six children and had a son who was eight months old when he died.
He had been living with his son and the baby’s mother, Hannah Page, but in the weeks before he had been arguing with his girlfriend and had asked to be rehoused by the Havering Council.
On the night he died, Sunday, May 27 last year, he moved to the room at the council bungalow at Crow Lane - where Danby and the others lived.
The house had been divided into seven bedsit rooms with five on the ground floor and two more in the loft.
Behind the house were two more buildings not controlled by the council.
By chance an 18 year-old girl visiting the house that evening saw Luke and claimed he had raped her two years before.
Her complaint had been dropped after she was interviewed by police, who found her accusation was untrue.
But when the girl repeated her claims, Hall vowed: “I’m going to f***ing kill him.”
The victim insisted he was innocent but police believe Danby may have been just looking for an excuse to kill someone.
Danby had never had a job and had only been in trouble for low level crime before the killing.
He was convicted of robbery when he went through the belongings of a man asleep on a bus and attacked him when he woke up.
Luke was so skinny that he wore jogging bottoms under his jeans, and on the day he died was wearing pyjamas as well.
Danby took a photograph of his on his mobile and showed it to the girl to confirm it was the man she claimed had raped her before he launched his ferocious two-hour assault.
Luke was repeatedly punched in the face in his bedroom and in a shower room, spraying blood over the walls and floor.
The girl told the court: “His nose was bent and there was blood everywhere. It was awful.”
He was so badly beaten that Hall said he looked like “The Elephant Man” as he was bundled into her blue Fiat Punto.
Luke was repeatedly elbowed in the face by sadistic Danby on a journey to playing fields in Broadmead Road, Woodford Green.
Hall was driving and O’Toole was also in the car as Danby held a knife to the teenager’s neck and said he was going to “slit his throat”.
Luke was “finished off” on the bank of the stream with repeated stamps and kicks.
“His murder was quite extraordinarily callous and violent and brutal,” said prosecutor Simon Denison.
“His facial skeleton was crushed.
“They then concealed his body by covering it with a mattress and other items.”
Hall told jurors she waited in the car while Danby and O’Toole took Luke down a path out of view.
According to O’Toole, Danby suddenly tried to strangle Luke by putting him in a “sleeper hold” before repeatedly stamping on his head.
O’Toole said he was so shocked by the attack he vomited near a fence.
“It’s something a monster would do,” he told the court.
When Danby returned to the car he had blood spattered all over his jeans, top and hands and confessed to Hall: “I killed him, treacle.”
Hall told jurors: “He said he stamped on Luke’s head 20 times until it popped.”
They went back to Crow Lane and Hall then drove Danby, O’Toole and Duggan to Hou Hatch in South Weald, Essex, where Luke’s belongings and Danby’s clothes were doused with petrol and burnt.
Danby then insisted on Hall, O’Toole and another flatmate Billy Duggan going back to see the body.
At the scene Danby pointed out a large patch of blood and laughed: “That’s where I stamped on that c***’s head.”
Danby rolled the body into the stream and put the mattress on top of it.
Back at the house the group mopped and scoured Luke’s bloodstains from the house as attempts were made to “remove all trace of him.”
But Hall tipped off the police on the evening of May 28 after Danby announced he was going to return to the body for a second time remove the hands and teeth.
“He was laughing and joking about cutting Luke’s head off,” Duggan recalled.
Hall said she had been so sickened by the violence and Danby’s horrific boasts she had to shop Danby.
“I just thought: ‘I have got to do it’,” she said.
Hall called police from a phone box and said she wanted to “report a dead body.”
She gave the location of the stream and said she would be there in twenty minutes.
Officers lay in wait at the scene and arrested the group as they returned with the knives and a pair of wire cutters.
It was claimed that Hall had initially attacked Luke after hearing about the rape claim.
O’Toole and Roberts were said to have joined in the attack.
But they all insisted they took no part in the violence and had to help Danby afterwards believing they would be killed next if they didn’t.
Hall, Danby, O’Toole, and Roberts, denied murder and causing grievous bodily harm with intent.
Hall, Danby and O’Toole, Duggan and Hassan, denied perverting the course of justice.
Hall was also convicted of causing grievous bodily harm and perverting the course of justice, but cleared of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Danby was also convicted of causing grievous bodily harm, perverting the course of justice and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. O’Toole, was cleared of causing grievous bodily harm but convicted of perverting the course of justice and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
The convicted defendants are due to be sentenced by Judge Paul Worsley QC on April 24.
Hassan and Roberts, who were both found not guilty of the charges they faced, were discharged by the judge and walked free.