Neighbours heard man’s calls for help before he was ‘beaten to death’ in lockdown

Michael McNee was found dead at his flat in Chesnut Close (Image: leicestermercury/WS)

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A dying man called for help before he was allegedly beaten to death with an implement, a murder trial heard.

Michael McNee, 40, was found in a bedroom at his Leicester flat on Friday, May 22 – with his friend Benjamin Bracegirdle accused of lethally injuring his friend.

Bracegirdle, 41, who denies murder, was staying with Mr McNee during the coronavirus lockdown.

He claims Mr McNee may have injured himself in a drunken fall – causing him to suffer lethal internal bleeding.

But the prosecution say Bracegirdle deliberately struck the alleged victim with an implement or may have kicked or stamped on him.

Neighbours were used to hearing loud clashes between the pair and had previously called the police, reports Leicester Live.

But on this occasion they ignored Mr McNee's pleas for help, it was claimed at Leicester Crown Court.

Michael McNee was found dead in a bedroom at his Leicester flat in Mountsorrel
(Image: leicestermercury/WS)

James House QC, prosecuting, said, in his opening speech, Mr McNee had multiple medical issues due to a car accident when he suffered leg and hip injuries, aged 18.

In hospital he received opiate-based painkillers.

He later became addicted to heroin and alcohol.

His health deteriorated, necessitating blood thinning injections and assistance from home carers.

Last Christmas he suffered multiple organ failure and was not expected to survive, but he recovered and returned home.

His alcohol consumption then reduced, he was on a Methadone prescription, and showing a "small improvement."

Mr House said people who knew Mr McNee were not surprised to hear of his death on Friday May 22, given his poor health over the preceding years.

Home Office pathologist, Dr Stuart Hamilton, carried out a post mortem examination and concluded Mr McNee did not die due to organ failure, alcoholism or drug misuse – but from internal bleeding.

The case is being heard at Leicester Crown Court
(Image: BPM Media)

Mr House said: "Mr McNee was beaten with an implement that had a pattern to it, on the left side towards his back.

"It was consistent with a blow from a patterned object.

"His death was not a consequence of his myriad of health issues.

"There were a number of other bruises suggestive of other blows being inflicted."

The prosecutor said the defendant and the deceased knew each other for "many years".

He said: "Their friendship was grounded in a lifestyle of alcohol and drugs and the defendant was a frequent visitor to Michael's flat and had helped him in the past. He wasn't an official carer."

Neighbours were "unhappy" with their noisy conduct and anti-social behaviour resulting in the police being called on occasions.

After the lockdown was imposed, the defendant moved in to stay at "vulnerable" Mr McNee's flat and the situation deteriorated – but Mr McNee told concerned neighbours he wanted Bracegirdle to remain in the flat and could not cope without him.

Mr House said: "In the days before his death, tension between the two men was rising.

"Neighbours heard numerous arguments and threats by the defendant towards Michael.

"They told the police that such was the shouting and aggression they heard over the previous weeks and months it became the norm."

Nearby residents allegedly told the police of "repeated verbal arguments" turning to aggression by the defendant, who would allegedly lose his patience and become physically violent.

The prosecutor told the jury that their "combined alcoholic lifestyles" led to frequent disputes – which escalated during the lockdown.

On the night before Mr McNee's death, a woman resident heard the sound of "whipping noises" with Michael allegedly saying: "Stop, stop please, it hurts, it hurts."

Another heard from her balcony "get off, leave me alone you bully" and "help, help".

A man living in the flat above the alleged victim's, claimed he heard Mr McNee saying "leave me alone" and calling for help about three or four times.

Mr House said: "There was banging and crashing of pots and pans.

"It all 'kicked off' and he (the witness) heard them moving from the living room to the bedroom – he heard Michael screaming 'help me, help me, please.'

"At 12.30am it all went quiet."

"Michael McNee's body was found in that bedroom.

"He'd sustained a blunt impact to his back with such force to cause internal bleeding.

"Because of the medication he was on he would have been more prone to bleeding, but it was that assault that caused the injury resulting in his death.

"We're unable to say what was used, be it a weapon or a shod foot.

"The fact both were affected by drink at the time is no excuse for his actions."

Mr House added: "The defendant knew better than anyone that Michael McNee was extremely vulnerable."

Paramedics arrived at 10.37am and notified the police.

The defendant who left the flat was arrested later that day.

The jury was told the defendant later told the police he slept on the couch that night and denied there was any physical violence between them.

He said he woke up at about 10am and, after watching television, discovered Michael's body on a mattress on the floor in his bedroom.

Bracegirdle told interviewing officers that a friend, who phoned him at that time, then came to the flat and called for an ambulance.

Mr House said: "The defendant accepts he was alone with the defendant that night and there were no visitors.

"He doesn't accept Michael was assaulted at all and says the injuries may have been caused by a heavy fall whilst intoxicated."

Bracegirdle claimed neighbours misinterpreted what they heard, were mistaken, or not telling the truth.

The trial continues.

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