Four men have been found guilty of killing a man in a “revenge attack” after he stole drugs from a home.
John Hutchinson, 44, collapsed at a flat in Scorton Avenue, Blackpool, on April 10, 2023, just hours after police responded to reports of an aggravated burglary at the same address. A group of men entered the flat through a smashed kitchen window carrying a hammer, metal bar and a wooden pole.
They are now known to be Lee Clarke, 33, of Greenall Court in Prescot, David Bond, 33, of Oaklands Avenue, Crosby, and Daniel Cunningham, 34, Tarnbrook Drive, Blackpool. Mr Hutchinson was attacked by the men before they made off from the scene.
Following the incident, which happened at around 6.50pm, officers spoke to Mr Hutchinson, but by 9.10pm police were called back to the scene when he suffered a suspected cardiac arrest. He was taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital for treatment but later died. Following a Home Office post-mortem examination, it was established he had died from a ruptured spleen which had caused fatal internal bleeding.
The bleeding had been caused by a hammer blow which had struck with considerable force and had fractured a rib and perforated the spleen, reports the Liverpool Echo. The court heard the assault on Mr Hutchinson was a revenge attack after he and another man stole a large quantity of drugs earlier the same day from the home address of a man called John Cunningham.
The defendants found Mr Huchinson after Darren McCabe, 47, of Warwick Road, Blackpool, helped them to locate him. After an investigation by the Force Major Investigation Team all four men were arrested and charged.
Following a trial at Preston Crown Court, Clarke and Bond were found guilty of murder while Daniel Cunningham and McCabe were found guilty of manslaughter. They will be sentenced at a later date.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Fallows, of the Force Major Investigation Team (FMIT) said: “The drug dealing world is a brutal one and being part of that world has ultimately cost John Hutchinson his life in what was a classic case of retribution. I would like to thank the prosecution team for their presentation of the case and the jury for their careful consideration of the facts. My thoughts remain with Mr Hutchinson’s loved ones and I hope that these guilty verdicts provide some sense that justice has been done.”
Earlier in the case, Simon Driver, prosecuting told the court the day before the attack, Mr Hutchinson, known as “Hutchy” received a text message from a friend, Danny McManus, asking if he was “up for a graft”. The court heard at around 12.30am on April 10, Mr Hutchinson met with Ben Hudson.
A short while later, Toni Cunningham, the wife of Daniel Cunningham, a Blackpool drug dealer, made a 999 call, saying their house was broken into by two men but said they had no idea what was going on. However, Simon Driver, prosecuting, said that was a lie.
He added Mr Hutchinson and Mr Hudson had used a hammer during the raid and had made off with a large bag of drugs. Mr Driver told the jury: “From that moment on, Hutchy was a marked man”. Following the robbery, Cunningham called Clarke, a dealer he worked for. Cunningham told him he had been robbed by “a lad called Hutchy”.
Cunningham called on McCabe, 47, who lived in Blackpool and “would be handy in terms of locating Hutchy”. In Liverpool, Clarke called Bond, to join him on a trip to Blackpool, the court heard. Mr Driver said: “The purpose of the trip was to take back the valuable drugs and punish Mr Hutchinson”.
The prosecution said at 5.25pm, Clarke left Liverpool in his girlfriend’s Ford Fiesta and drove to Blackpool with Bond on board. Meanwhile, Darren McCabe reported back that he located Mr Hutchinson at a flat in Scorton Avenue.
McCabe, who had been begging for money in the New Road Inn, Blackpool, was overheard on the phone saying: “I’ve got to go after some guy. I want to kill him. I’ve got to kill him. I need some money.” Mr Driver said: “After the attack on Mr Hutchinson, McCabe had plenty of money. His job was to track Mr Hutchinson down and point one party to the other.”
Unaware of what was going to happen, the court heard Mr Hutchinson was sitting in the flat in Scorton Avenue with a large bag of drugs. Mr Driver said Clarke, Bond and Cunningham got out of the car, armed with batons and a hammer. He added the decision to use a hammer was not random, as it had been the weapon of choice in the earlier robbery. He said: “This was deliberate tit-for-tat.”
The three men broke into the flat through a smashed kitchen window and set upon Mr Hutchinson. He was hit with a hammer and his head was stamped on, the court heard. A neighbour heard the attack and called the police but Mr Hutchinson and the other people in the flat “weren’t keen on giving an explanation or making a complaint”, the court heard. Mr Hutchinson had cuts and bruises but was unaware he was bleeding to death from an internal injury. He collapsed at 8.40pm.
Following the attack, Clarke and Bond returned to Liverpool, where they laughed about what they had done, the jury was told. In a text exchange, Bond said: “Lad, my foot’s killing me haha”. Clarke replied: “Took me back to the good old days, that did.”
Bond said: “My bird’s fuming haha.” But added: “She’s alright. Just got a cob on. I said I only drove.” Cunningham then joined in the chat, telling Clarke: “Thanks brother for everything fam. You and the other fella. Tell him thank you.” Bond then told Clarke to “make sure he gets rid of the hammer and get all that s**t in a fresh JD bag.”
When the men learned Mr Hutchinson had died, “self-preservation kicked in”, Mr Driver said. They discussed “going down”, with Bond asking Clarke, “what if I did it?” Clarke replied: “A hammer to the back ain’t doing that bro.” But the court heard a hammer to the back was precisely what had killed Mr Hutchinson. At 1.15pm on April 11, officers arrested Cunningham at his home in Tarnbrook Drive, Blackpool.
As he answered the door to the police, Cunningham was on the phone to Clarke. When Clarke told Bond that Cunningham had been arrested, Bond told him: “Launch your phone.” In the interview, Cunningham gave no comment. Clarke, who was arrested at his home in Greenall Close, Prescot, accepted he had broken into the flat and assaulted “the baldy one” – a description which did not match Mr Hutchinson.
He named Bond as the intruder with the hammer, but said he did not see the weapon until after they had left the property. McCabe was arrested in Talbot Road, Blackpool, and also gave a no-comment interview, but said Mr Hutchinson was a good friend, and denied he had been part of the group who assaulted him.
However, the prosecution said McCabe was paid for his role in a revenge attack to take back the drugs and deter others from stealing the stash. Bond was arrested at his mum’s house in Oaskland Avenue, Crosby, on April 15.
He said he had found himself in a car on the way to Blackpool and that the purpose of the visit was to recover drugs. However, he too said he had only seen the hammer after they had left the premises.