Murder trial hears of victim’s £350,000 cocaine deal: Burnley couple in dock

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The fiancee of a father-of-four, who was kidnapped by a masked armed gang and murdered, told a jury how she had chosen her wedding dress the day before he vanished.

The body of site manager Paul Brady (43), who led a double life as a drugs dealer, has never been found but Emma Dobson said she had identified his spectacles and a shoe left at the scene of his disappearance.

Miss Dobson, a mother-of-two, was giving evidence at the Liverpool Crown Court trial of 35-year-old Devalda, of Padiham Road, Burnley, who denies murdering Mr Brady.

Devalda, who also had an address in Heaton Park Road, Prestwich, Manchester, also denies an alternative charge of unlawfully killing him and conspiring to kidnap him.

Also in the dock is Heath Bowling (38), of High Lane, Stockport, who denies attempting to pervert the course of justice by giving false details about a Ford Galaxy to the DVLA and police.

Devalda’s girlfriend, Stacia Crossley (28), also of Padiham Road, denies three charges of assisting an offender.

Miss Dobson said she had lived with Mr Brady, whose nickname was Joe 90, in Rochdale. They got engaged in November 2008 and planned to wed last April.

But he went out to work on Saturday morning August 1st, 2009, and the last time she heard from him was at 1-25 p.m. that day.

“Have you seen or heard from Paul since that last contact?” asked Richard Marks QC (prosecuting). “No,” she replied.

Miss Dobson, a dance teacher, who gave evidence from behind a screen, said he worked as a foreman for Stephen Balint, whose property developments included Lynns Court in Weir, Bacup.

At the time of Mr Brady’s kidnapping, Mr Balint was living in Majorca and the prosecution claim he was a drugs financier who used Mr Brady to collect and sell cocaine.

She told the court that, on July 31st, Mr Brady got a telephone call saying one of the houses had been damaged and she drove him there that night to inspect it. He discovered a large firework had been set off in a room in the house and made temporary repairs.

The prosecution claim Mr Brady had been lured to the site so he could be attacked but, as she was with him, the attack was delayed until the next day when he returned.

Further questioned, Miss Dobson said she knew her fiance had been involved in drug dealing with Mr Balint and in the days before the incident he had been trying to sell 7kg of cocaine worth £350,000. He sold 2kg but was struggling to get rid of the rest because of its quality, she said.

She told how she had been with him on July 29th when he collected a holdall containing the drugs from a man at an animal sanctuary near Haslingden.

After he disappeared, Mr Balint got in touch and arranged for the remainder of the drugs, and what she believed to be a gun, to be collected from her.

Cross-examined by Mr Michael Wolfkind QC (defending Devalda), she admitted Mr Brady had also been kidnapped years ago before she was with him.

She also agreed he had come under threat because of his drug dealing activities and a man called Paul from Manchester had threatened to “sort him out and get rid of him” and he had also had problems with a man called Reno.

But she said by the end of July 2009 she did not think people had a grudge against him.

The court has heard that on the day when Mr Brady left the small complex, in his van, followed by joiner David Collier in his car, a people carrier blocked their way along nearby Beaufort Road and another vehicle, 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 about 10 and 15 people with metal bars, a baseball bat and a shotgun, all wearing black, tight-fitting ski masks and wearing identical black hooded tops and black trousers.

(Proceeding)