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Jan 16 10 11:46 AM
The partner of a man who was allegedly tortured to death at a County Durham house has admitted killing him.
Andrew Gardner was punched, stamped on, whipped and burnt before his death at Arthur Street, Chilton, in March 2008.
Mr Gardner's partner Clare Nicholls, 28, her brother Simon, 24, and her ex-partner Steven Martin, 44, all of Arthur Street, are accused of
On Thursday Clare Nichols admitted manslaughter but the plea was rejected by the prosecution.
Earlier the mother-of-four accused her brother of joining in the attacks.
She told the court her younger brother Simon had taken part in the brutal attacks on Mr Gardner, which resulted in him suffering more than 100
Mr Gardner, 35, was repeatedly punched, kicked, stamped on, whipped and burnt in the weeks leading up to his death in March last year.
The trial at Teesside Crown Court has heard that his torturers had even played a "grotesque" game of noughts and crosses on Mr
Giving evidence, Clare Nicholls accepted she had a violent personality and admitted she had regularly hit her former partners, including the father
of her three oldest children.
But she denied she was solely responsible for the injuries inflicted upon Mr Gardner, although she said she would regularly punch and slap him.
She told jurors her brother was also responsible for jumping on Mr Gardner's ribs, along with her.
Nicholls explained she regularly lost her temper with Mr Gardner because she was house proud and he was untidy and had poor personal hygiene.
Questioned by her barrister Robert Woodcock QC, she admitted using her knees to land repeated blows on Mr Gardner's ribs.
Nicholls said she would also get angry at Mr Gardner because he would constantly fall asleep during the day while looking after their baby
She said: "He would just sit in one particular spot that he always sat in, which would be on the floor near the fireguard.
"He would constantly nod off and just fall asleep."
The court heard Clare Nicholls had grown up in Portsmouth, Hampshire, and had moved to the north-east of England when she was in her teens.
The trial continues.
Jan 16 10 11:57 AM
Jan 16 10 12:17 PM
Jan 18 10 10:15 AM
8:45am Monday 18th January 2010.
A MAN accused of murder has blamed his lover for killing her partner and told a jury that he was disgusted with himself for not intervening to stop the
Steven Martin said he sat and watched while Clare Nicholls punched and kicked Andrew Gardner in the head, and jumped on his chest before he died last
Mr Martin told a jury at Teesside Crown Court that Miss Nicholls was solely responsible for killing Mr Gardner, 35, and that he
was "too scared" to stop it happening.
The court heard that Mr Martin, 44, and Miss Nicholls, 28, had been lovers before she met Mr Gardner, and he had also been on the receiving end of her
He moved in with the couple and her brother, Simon Nicholls, 24, at their home in Chilton, County Durham, last February after being invited to by Miss
Miss Nicholls and Mr Martin began sleeping together again - sometimes having sex in front of Mr Gardner - in what the prosecution claims was "utter
It is alleged that Mr Gardner was tortured to death by the three over "at least weeks" in punishment beatings that left him with more than 100
Mr Gardner suffered 21 rib fractures, burns, whip marks and slashes, as well as bleeding on the brain, and was showing signs of malnutrition and blood
Under cross-examination, Mr Martin admitted that he was responsible for burns on Mr Gardner's back and shoulder where he had been pinned against a
He also accepted he was to blame for pouring boiling water from a kettle over Mr Gardner's feet and legs, but denied "branding" him with a
white-hot cigarette lighter.
Mr Martin was asked by his barrister, David Robson: "While the so-called torture was going on in the house, why did you not do anything to prevent
He said he "felt sick" as he watched Miss Nicholls repeatedly attack Mr Gardner, and said: "I was too scared of Clare's temper and she
may have lashed out at me."
Mr Robson asked: "How do you feel now that Andrew Gardner was killed in that house and you didn't do anything to stop it?" Mr Martin replied:
"I feel upset. I'm disgusted in myself."
Mr Nicholls was due to give evidence after his sister on Friday, but he declined to take the witness box.
The three, of Arthur Street, deny murdering Mr Gardner on March 13, and the trial will resume today.
Miss Nicholls has accepted inflicting "the best part" of the injuries - although she claims she did not intend to seriously hurt Mr Gardner - but
has said her brother and lover also contributed.
Jan 18 10 3:07 PM
10:18am Wednesday 6th January 2010
CRIME SCENE: The house in Chilton, where Mr Gardner died
A MURDER trial jury sat in shock as they heard more details of the alleged horrors that went on inside a house where a father is said to have been tortured
Andrew Gardner's partner, her brother and her ex-lover are accused of slashing, burning, beating, whipping, kicking and stamping on him for weeks before
Mr Gardner was found to have 21 rib fractures, head injuries, blood poisoning and a chest infection as well as the other wounds, Teesside Crown Court was told.
The 35-year-old was also showing signs of being malnourished when a postmortem examination was carried out by a pathologist, after his death in March last
Yesterday, on the second day of a trial, further details emerged of the alleged abuse at the house in Chilton, County Durham.
Jurors wept as they heard evidence about how Mr Gardner was tortured - including having four-letter words scrawled on his body.
On his back were daubed messages such as "You are a f****** bastard" and "I hate you because you are such a f****** idiot", the jury of
seven men and five women was told.
Mr Gardner shared the house in Arthur Street with his partner Clare Nicholls, 28, her brother Simon Nicholls, 24, and her "on-off lover"
Steven Martin, 44.
All three deny murder and face a trial which is expected to last up to three weeks.
In police interviews, they blamed the others to some degree for the injuries.
The court was told that Miss Nicholls weighed and measured food to stop Mr Gardner taking any without her knowledge, and made him face the door while others
He was repeatedly beaten because he told lies, stole food and sometimes nodded off. He was even told he was not allowed to sit on settees, the jury
Pockets had been cut from his tracksuit bottoms so he could not hide anything in them, the court heard, and he was ordered to sleep on newspapers or
The family moved into the house in the summer of 2008, and next-door neighbour Linda Austin said she heard Clare Nicholls screaming as soon as they
Ms Austin said there did not appear to be any arguments as nobody else in the nextdoor house spoke after Miss Nicholls shouted in her "loud and
She agreed when asked by Paul Sloan, prosecuting: "Did she appear to be in control of her household, dominating what was occurring in that
The case continues.
Jan 18 10 3:29 PM
Jan 18 10 3:51 PM
Jan 18 10 8:28 PM
Jan 18 10 8:42 PM
Shar your updates on this story are fabulous as disturbing as they are to read
you doing an amazing job on this thread.
Jan 19 10 7:02 AM
Jan 19 10 7:14 AM
Jan 19 10 7:31 AM
The court heard how Mr Martin was in a seven-year relationship with Ms Nicholls's mother Janet Hall, before he began dating Ms Nicholls.
Earlier in the day, Ms Nicholls accepted she broke Mr Gardner's ribs but told jurors she didn't mean to kill him.
During cross-examination, Paul Sloan QC told her: "You cannot bring yourself to admit what you intended to do that night because if you truly admitted
your intention you would be admitting murder."
The mother-of-four said: "I never intended him any serious pain or even death.
"I have no words at this moment in time but I do know one thing, I never for one minute wanted to see that man die."
Simon Nicholls was due to give evidence after his sister, but refused to take the witness box
Jan 22 10 8:01 PM
A mother and her brother have been jailed for life for the murder of a County Durham man tortured to death.
Clare Nicholls, 28, and her brother Simon, 24, were convicted of the murder of her partner Andrew Gardner, 35, at a house they shared in Chilton in
The mother-of-four was told she must serve at least 32 years in jail. Her brother will serve at least 25 years.
Nicholls' ex-lover Steven Martin, 44, was also convicted of murder and will be sentenced after psychiatric reports.
All three had denied murder.
Teesside Crown Court heard how Mr Gardner was burnt and beaten over a period of weeks before his death at the house in Chilton in March 2008.
A jury was told how helpless Mr Gardner suffered weeks of agonising violence.
During the two-week trial Clare Nicholls admitted manslaughter, but her plea was rejected by the Crown.
Mr Gardner was father to the youngest of his partner's four children.
He had 21 rib fractures, burns to his feet, neck and back, whip-like marks on his body, severe bruising and brain bleeding.
Crude abuse was daubed on his body in nail varnish when he cried.
Jurors wept when they heard that youngsters were encouraged to join in the attacks at the house they shared in Arthur Street, Chilton.
Marks caused by a sharp object were found on his body, described by Home Office pathologist Dr Nigel Cooper as "a grotesque game of noughts and
Boiling water was poured over his feet in the bath, he was held against a hot radiator and scorched with a cigarette lighter.
Mr Gardner, who weighed 8st 14lb (57kg) was banned from eating and was forced to steal food from cupboards, and received more punishment when he got
Paramedics were called to the house on 13 March last year but, Mr Gardner had been dead for some time.
Medical evidence showed he was incapacitated by a second, painful set of rib injuries, probably caused by jumps or stamps, and that he took
"some time to die".
After the verdict, Mr Gardner's mother Jean said: "The thoughts of what went on at the hands and direction of that evil woman has left me
with nightmares that will probably never go away.
"Andrew was a pleasant, caring, loving lad, who kept out of trouble and was never violent to anyone.
"It's unspeakable what she and the others did. You don't do that to another human being."
Ch Insp Mick Nail added: "This has been the worst case of violence Durham Constabulary has had to investigate.
"The injuries that Andrew Gardner suffered could well have been inflicted by medieval torturers.
"Claire Nicholls led and orchestrated the abuse and degradation of Andrew and topped his suffering with humiliation - made worse by the fact
that she involved her own children."
Jan 23 10 7:59 AM
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Jan 24 10 11:41 AM
Above: Claire Nichols (28), Simon Nichols (24), and Steven Martin (44) were all found guilty of murder. Three people have been found guilty of the brutal torture, and murder, of a County Durham dad. Andrew Gardner was found dead at his home on Arthur Street in Chilton back last year.
The 35 year-old was subjected to more than 150 separate injuries by the people he lived with, including being starved, whipped, cut burnt, and bruised. In once case he was left with horrific scars after having boiling water poured down his legs. He also had 21 broken ribs.
Teesside crown court heard how he put up with it all for the love of his one year-old daughter, and the desire to be close to her.
One one his own girlfriend - 28 year-old Claire Nichols. The other two were her brother - Simon, 24, and her lover - Steven Martin - who is 44. Following a three week trial, it took the jury at Teesside crown court just half an hour to find all three guilty. Claire Nichols was sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum of 32 years.
Simon was also sentenced to life, with a minimum of 25 years. Meanwhile Steven Martin will be sentenced at a later date. Andrew's mother Jean made a statement following the trial:
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