Burnley man found guilty of murder in ‘missing body’ case

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A Burnley man was convicted of murdering a father-of-four this afternoon by a Liverpool Crown Court jury following a trial lasting almost two months.

Paul Devalda (35) was found guilty of murdering Rochdale man Paul Brady even though his body has never been found.

He was kidnapped by a masked armed gang after being lured to a housing estate in Bacup in August 2009.

The jury also convicted Brady of conspiracy to kidnap Mr Brady, who was to be married last year.

Devalda, who is currently in jail for drugs offences, sat with his head in his hands and his girlfriend, Stacia Crossley (28) sat shaking and crying. The jury was unable to agree verdicts on two charges against her of assisting an offender.

Also in the dock was Heath Bowling (38), of Stockport. He was found guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice by giving false details to the DVLA and police, which he had denied.

Devalda, of Padiham Road, Burnley, has been further remanded in custody to await sentence later this week. Bowling was further remanded on bail to enable reports to be prepared and will be sentenced next month. Crossley was further remanded on bail while the prosecution decide whether she should face a re-trial.

During the trial, the jury heard the victim was leading a double life as a drug dealer. At the time of his disappearance, he was working as site manager for property developer Stephen Balint and it was claimed he was also dealing drugs. In the days before the kidnap he was trying to sell heroin with a street value of £350,000.

When he left the housing complex in Weir, in his van, followed by a joiner in his car, a people carrier blocked their way and a Citreon Berlingo came up behind their cars.

Mr Brady got out and ran away past Mr Collier, telling him to run but was then knocked to the ground by an armed gang of 10 to 15 people, all wearing black ski masks, black hooded tops and black trousers. They were using metal bars and a baseball bat and one had a shotgun. One tried to smash his way into Mr Collier’s car with a steering lock and pulled him out and held him in a headlock.

Mr Collier, who could hear Mr Brady screaming, was hit on the back of head and threatened. He managed to run off but was rugby tackled to the ground and again threatened but got away by wading through the River Irwell.

No-one has seen or heard from Mr Brady since the incident, including his fiancee, his ex-wife and their four children. “The inevitable conclusion is that in the course of this violent kidnap Paul Brady met his death, although we cannot say precisely how that arose nor exactly when he died,” said Richard Marks, QC, prosecuting.

There’s more on this court case in Friday’s Express.