Man found guilty of murdering Michael Brierley in Nelson and assaulting his partner in fatal 'cuckooing' case

A man has today (May 30th) been found guilty of murdering Michael James Brierley in Nelson.

By Dominic Collis
Monday, 30th May 2022, 6:11 pm

Naeem Mustafa, 46, was also found guilty of assaulting Mr Brierley’s 67-year-old partner, who tried to intervene during the brutal attack. In total Mr Brierley suffered 164 separate impact injuries, the vast majority of which are believed to have been caused by weapons.

Police were called on November 8th, last year, to an address on Berkeley Close after the report that a man, later identified as 48-year-old Mr Brierley, had been found dead within a bungalow.

A post mortem examination carried out by Home Office pathologist Dr Philip Lumb discovered that the cause of Mr Brierley’s death was head, chest, upper and lower limb injuries.

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Naeem Mustafa, 46, of of St Paul’s Road, Nelson, guilty of murder and Section 18 assault at Preston Crown Court

A murder investigation was launched and it came to light that Mustafa had been staying at Berkeley Close and exercised a controlling relationship over Mr Brierley and his partner. In the months leading up to the murder Mustafa assaulted both victims on numerous occasions, took over the house in which they lived and had Mr Brierley’s disability benefits paid into his own bank account.

On the morning of Mr Brierley’s murder, the victim and Mustafa walked to a nearby convenience store to buy some alcohol.

On the way to the store, Mustafa was captured on CCTV assaulting Mr Brierley. While in the store, Mustafa – who was wearing a Burnley Football Club shirt, a light-coloured jacket and grey jogging bottoms - could be heard using expletives towards Mr Brierley and telling him what to do. The pair then walked back to Berkeley Close.

At 12-43pm – two minutes after Mr Brierley’s partner had called for an ambulance to report the victim was lying unresponsive in the hallway – Mustafa was captured leaving the property, followed by a second individual.

Nelson murder victim Michael James Brierley

Mustafa had ditched the outer clothing he had previously been wearing and was captured on CCTV in a distinctive pair of orange shorts. However, forensic scientists were able to say that Mustafa’s Burnley shirt and light coloured jacket which were found inside the bungalow in Berkeley Close, contained traces of airborne blood belonging to Mr Brierley. That proved the defendant had been in close proximity to the victim when he suffered the fatal attack. Mr Brierley’s blood was also found on Mustafa’s grey jogging bottoms. Mustafa’s bank card was in the pocket of these joggers.

Mustafa was arrested in the early hours of the following morning.

A jury at Preston Crown Court unanimously found Mustafa, of St Paul’s Road, Nelson, guilty of murder and Section 18 assault.

A 31-year-old woman from Nelson was found not guilty of assisting an offender.

Mustafa will be sentenced on June 16th.

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Det. Chief Insp Allen Davies, of the Force Major Investigation Team, said: “This was a barbaric, callous and sustained attack carried out on a kind and extremely vulnerable man. I truly believe that Mustafa identified Michael Brierley and his partner as vulnerable and set about a campaign of physical, emotional, verbal and financial abuse, knowing they would not and could not fight back. The level of violence used against Michael in the final hours of his life was truly appalling and the act of an evil and cowardly bully. They are some of the worst injuries I have come across during the course of my career.

“Mustafa has lied throughout this case – from when he was first interviewed at Greenbank Police Station to when he was giving evidence at court. I am pleased the jury saw through those lies and recognised him for the truly remorseless, manipulative individual he is.”

DCI Davies added: “What has sadly become clear during this investigation is that Michael and his partner were victims of cuckooing at the hands of Mustafa. He exploited their vulnerabilities for his own financial benefit, controlling their lives, subjecting them to regular violence and verbal abuse and having Michael’s benefits paid into his own bank account.

“I want to reach out directly to anybody who may be the victim of cuckooing or any type of physical, emotional or financial abuse to contact the police. Similarly, I would like to appeal to the public to look out for their neighbours, friends and relatives, and report anything suspicious. Whether that be shouting, a change in somebody’s demeanour, evidence of somebody exerting control over somebody else or unexplained injuries.”

In a statement, Mr Brierley’s family said: “Today's verdict is greatly received and is a relief to all of us who loved Michael. We thank the jury for the attention they have paid to this case and their guilty verdict

“Our thanks go to Detective Chief Inspector Allen Davies, Detective Inspector Bryony Midgley, Mr Paul Reid QC, Miss Emma Kehoe of the Crown Prosecution Service, Family Liaison Officers DC Sarah Whittaker and DC Melissa Chadwick and all the investigation team who worked so hard to ensure that they left no stone unturned to ensure justice was done for Michael. From the day Michael was murdered they have supported us, and we have felt very much included in the progress of the case.

“From the moment we learnt of Michael’s murder we have struggled to understand how and why this happened. Michael was a gentle soul who put others before himself and was a carer for his partner. During the trial Naeem Mustafa has told lie upon lie and has never explained why he felt it necessary to inflict over 160 injuries to Michael’s body. He is a coward and a bully. Michael was murdered in his own home where he should have felt safe by a man he considered to be a friend.

“Attending Michael’s trial has proved exceptionally difficult having to listen to all the evidence in detail and knowing that in the final moments of his life he would have been frightened and in immense pain.

“The loss of Michael has left a huge hole in our hearts, may he now rest in peace.”