Jury retires to consider verdict in Joe Pooley murder trial

Photo of Joe Pooley in dark tee shirt

The jury has retired to consider a verdict in the Joe Pooley murder trial at Ipswich Crown Court. - Credit: Suffolk Constabulary

A jury in the trial of four people accused of murdering Ipswich man Joe Pooley, whose body was found in the River Gipping, has retired to consider its verdicts.

Judge Martyn Levett completed his summing up of the case and directions on the law today at Ipswich Crown Court following a four-month trial, which began on Wednesday, October 14 and took place across two courtrooms due to Covid-19 protocol.

Two men and two women are accused of "ganging up" and murdering 22-year-old Mr Pooley on or before August 7, 2018. 

Sebastian Smith, 35, of no fixed address, Sean Palmer, 30, of South Market Road, Great Yarmouth, Becki West-Davidson, 30, of Rope Walk, Ipswich, and Lisa-Marie Smith, 26, of Hawick, Roxburghshire, have all denied murdering Mr Pooley.

The cause of Mr Pooley's death was immersion in water.

Opening the trial in October, prosecution counsel Christopher Paxton QC told jurors that each defendant had a role to play in events that led to the death of Mr Pooley, who had been under the wing of adult social care and was considered to be “vulnerable, trusting of others and easily taken advantage of”.

He said West-Davidson’s anger with Mr Pooley, over comments he was said to have made about her and Lisa-Marie Smith, “stoked up hostility towards him”.

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Mr Paxton alleged that West-Davidson had encouraged others to attack Mr Pooley at the riverside.

He claimed that Sebastian Smith and Palmer had attacked Mr Pooley and caused his body to end up in the river.

He alleged that Sebastian Smith’s then girlfriend, Lisa-Marie Smith, lured Mr Pooley from his address at the Kingsley House Hotel, in London Road, knowing he was going to be attacked, or at the very least “given a serious beating”.

Sebastian Smith, the only defendant to give evidence in the case, denied telling a friend that he and Palmer had “put Joe in the river".

He admitted punching Mr Pooley twice but told the jury he and Palmer then ran off and left Mr Pooley on the ground.

He denied throwing Mr Pooley into the river and, asked why he left Ipswich for Scotland shortly after the alleged murder, said he "needed to get away for a while".

Earlier this month, Simon Spence QC, representing Sean Palmer, suggested to the jury that Mr Pooley could have fallen into the river, swam for a short time and then drowned.

The defence said that there was no sexual motive or evidence of sexual jealousy. 

Judge Martyn Levett completed his summing up today, reminding the jurors of evidence given by pathologist Dr Nat Cary, along with witness statements and comments made by the defendant Sean Palmer in interviews with police. 

He told the 11 jurors: "This is your judgement, and it is yours alone which counts. 

"The law requires a unanimous verdict, so please put the majority verdict out of your mind for now. 

"These cases can cause emotion, but it is important just to look at the evidence put to you in the trial."

The jury retired to consider its verdicts and will return to court on Monday to continue its deliberations.

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