A site manager, who was kidnapped by a masked armed gang, was murdered and his body never found, a jury heard today.
43-year-old Paul Brady, who was leading a double life as a drug dealer, had been lured to the housing site so he could be attacked, claimed Richard Marks, QC (prosecuting).
When he left the small complex, Lynns Court, in Weir, Bacup, in his van, followed by a joiner in his car, a people carrier blocked their way along Beaufort Road and another vehicle, a Citreon Berlingo, came up behind their cars.
Mr Brady got out and ran away past the joiner, David Collier, telling him to run.
“The next thing he knew was that Paul Brady was on the floor in the road and was surrounded by what he describes as between 10 and 15 people, all of whom were wearing black, tight-fitting ski masks with eye and mouth holes.
“They all appeared to be wearing identical clothing, comprising black hooded tops and black trousers. They all seemed to be hitting Paul Brady with weapons. He thought he could see metal bars and a baseball bat and observed that one of the group was holding a shotgun of about two to three feet in length,” said Mr Marks.
A masked man then 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 would be stabbed if he did not get into a vehicle.
He managed to run off but was rugby tackled to the ground and again threatened but he got away and waded through the nearby River Irwell to escape.
A neighbour returned home to see the victims’ abandoned vehicles and saw a pair of legs sticking out of the Citreon. A man got out and bundled the legs in and shut the door, said Mr Marks.
Fortunately, she had the presence of mind to write down the number of the people carrier, a Ford Galaxy, an ex-police vehicle. That number “is a key piece of evidence”, claimed Mr Marks, as that vehicle can be connected with defendants, Paul Devalda and Heath Bowling.
35-year-old Devalda, of Padiham Road, Burnley, denies murdering Rochdale man, Mr Brady, an alternative charge of manslaughter and conspiring to kidnap him.
Bowling (38), of High Lane, Stockport, denies attempting to pervert the course of justice by giving false details about the Ford Galaxy to the DVLA and police.
Also in the dock at Liverpool Crown Court is Devalda’s girlfriend, Stacia Crossley (28), also of Padiham Road. She has denied three charges of assisting an offender.
Mr Marks told the jury that, on July 31st, 2009 a firework was set off in one of the houses in Lynns Court to lure Mr Brady there. He arrived in his girlfriend’s car and returned the next day with Mr Collier to carry out the repairs.
CCTV footage showed the stolen Citreon Berlingo parked in nearby Beaufort Road lying in wait before it later pulled out for the ambush. It was found burnt out on August 4th in Liverpool Road, Peel Green, Eccles. Mr Brady’s and Mr Collier’s vehicles had been driven from the scene and were found abandoned nearby.
Mr Marks said 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.”
He told the jury the prosecution could not specifically say why he was kidnapped and murdered and why Devalda was allegedly involved.
However, he said that at the time, as well as working for Steven Balint in his property development business he was involved with him in the large scale supply of drugs. In the days before his disappearance he had been trying to sell £350,000 worth of cocaine, at £50,000 a kilo.
“It would be surprising ... if this drug-related activity was not connected with Paul Brady’s kidnap and subsequent disappearance,” he claimed.
Mr Marks said there are a number of strands of evidence which taken together “create a compelling picture“ as to Devalda’s involvement.
He said the Ford Galaxy had been bought for garage owner Bowling, an associate of Devalda, in May 2009. When quizzed by police he claimed he has sold it to a Mr Wilson in July.
Inquiries revealed a DVLA application form showed it had apparently been acquired on August 1st by a Gareth Wilson and registered to the address of an empty shop in Preston.
Bowling’s account was “a pack of lies” and he had actually supplied the vehicle to Devalda, alleged Mr Marks.
The Galaxy was seen by police on July 31st behind Devalda’s other home in Heaton Park Road, Prestwich, Manchester, and CCTV footage showed it was driven that night to Beaufort Road heading towards Lynns Court.
The day after the kidnapping Devalda and Crossley booked into the Norton Grange Hotel, Rochdale, and police, who managed to install a listening device in their room, heard incriminating conversations, he claimed.
These included Devalda saying, “I’ll just go and bury it somewhere up on the moors or something” and later, “they/we need to clean him up quick”.
He also expressed concerns the police were onto him and said “guy that got kidnapped is called Joe 90 I think.” The court heard that was Mr Brady’s nickname.
When Crossley asked him who had put him on to him he said “Keiron” and that Mr Brady’s mate had set him up. Devalda referred to an email and spoke of his desperation to get rid of his laptops and told her to get rid of them.
She got him a passport application form on August 4th but instead of leaving the country he fled to London where was arrested in a telephone kiosk on August 9th.
Among questions he declined to answer was one about his purchase of a black balaclava and gloves in Haslingden the day before the kidnapping.
“You will recall the men involved in the kidnap were wearing such items and the prosecution suggest it is no mere coincidence Paul Devalda was purchasing such items on a summer’s day,” said Mr Marks.
The case continues