Gun residue found at house of man accused of shooting Earls Barton gran, court hears

Day two of the Marion Price murder trial

Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 6:27 pm

Particles of gunshot residue that may be linked to the gun used to kill an Earls Barton gran were found at the house of a man accused of her murder, a court heard today (Tuesday).

Marion Price, 63, was discovered dead in her Vauxhall Corsa outside her home in Packwood Crescent on December 15 last year after she was shot.

Today Northampton Crown Court heard scientists discovered 11 particles of gunshot residue on a jacket in the study of the home of her ex-partner Michael Reader, 70, who is on trial for murder.

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The crime scene last year. Credit: SWNS

Prosecuting, Mary Loram QC said the particles were compared to residue taken from Marion's body - and provided "moderate support" for the proposition that the jacket had been exposed to the discharge of the gun used to shoot her.

No gun has ever been found, but Ms Loram said it "fitted in perfectly" with their case that Reader shot the former finance controller from a motorbike.

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In the second day of the trial Ms Loram outlined the rest of the prosecution's case and revealed the alleged involvement of Reader's friend of more than 35 years, Stephen Welch, who is also facing a charge of murder.

Welch, the Crown say, assisted Reader both before and after Marion was killed by helping his friend track her movements and allegedly helping him in the hours after her death.

Ms Loram said: "We say that the evidence of Stephen Welch's assistance shows us that he must have known full well of what his friend was going to do and helped him in his plan.

"He may not have pulled the trigger but his role still makes him guilty of murder."

The court heard that about 20 minutes after Marion was shot Welch, of Addlecroft Close in Kingsthorpe, had a 14-second phone call with Reader.

Ms Loram said Welch was at Reader's house in Booth Rise when the killing took place.

She said: "You may wonder, if a man was setting out to kill his wife, would he leave his closest friend sitting at his house if that friend had no idea what he was going to do?"

She said that after Welch, 61, was called he set off to Quarry Park Garage in Moulton, where Reader was.

The court heard he then went to Pitsford and then around to the bottom of Northampton, where he was near a river for almost 15 minutes before heading back through Abington and to Reader's house.

The prosecution allege he initially went to Pitsford Reservoir to dump something related to Marion's death, but was unable to get to the water because the car park was shut.

They allege he then went to the River Nene on the south of Northampton instead and played a role in the murder by disposing of something for Reader.

Ms Loram said: "That is not wild speculation. It is an explanation."

A team of divers were later sent to the area of the river where Welch had allegedly been to.

They found a bag of clothes, weighed down by bricks, but found no DNA or blood on the items.

The prosecution allege they were either worn by Reader or it was an "overwhelming coincidence". They also allege Welch took his friend a pair of clean clothes to change into after the killing took place.

Today the court also heard about the lengths Reader allegedly went to to keep tabs on his ex-partner.

Ms Loram said a tracker, bought by Reader, had been activated in November 2018 and placed on Marion's car.

It was used to reveal her location on Reader's phone, the court heard, and its battery needed changing once a week.

On one day in September, it was used eight times to find out where Marion was, the court heard. On December 13 there was six checks of her location, five on December 14 and seven on December 15, the day she was shot.

It's the prosecution's case that Welch helped Reader keep track of Marion by driving out to change the battery and helping top up the sim card.

The court heard on December 12, 13 and 14, the three days leading up to the shooting, Welch drove to Marion's home.

Ms Loram said: "It is inconceivable that [someone would] carry out such actions not just once, but several times, without asking questions.

"It's inconceivable as well that if you were tracking your ex-wife, that you would involve someone that you did not absolutely trust.

"There is no sensible reason for Michael Reader to be tracking a woman he was all but divorced from.

"At least not one that does not involve causing her harm."

The court heard Reader's DNA was found on the tracker device's battery and sim card, with Welch's found on the sim card.

When he was arrested Reader gave a very short prepared statement.

It simply read: "I did not kill Marion Price."

The court heard that the day after the shooting Welch flew to Alicante. There, on his mobile phone, he read a story about Marion's murder on the Northampton Chronicle & Echo website.

He was later arrested and vehemently denied being involved in the murder when interviewed by police.

He told police that on the day of the killing he had been to see his daughter in the afternoon before later visiting Reader's house.

The prosecution allege that this is not true and that he was helping Reader after the shooting.

Ms Loram said: "These two were really quite close to getting away with it."

Tomorrow (Wednesday) the defence will outline their case before the first witnesses, Marion's family and friends, will be called to give evidence.