BREAKING: Couple jailed for beating love rival to death in Rotherham lay-by

Leonie Mason, 23, and her boyfriend Shiraz Bashir, 41, have been found guilty of killing her ex-lover Craig Preston in a Rotherham lay-by
Leonie Mason, 23, and her boyfriend Shiraz Bashir, 41, have been found guilty of killing her ex-lover Craig Preston in a Rotherham lay-by
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A murderous couple, who recruited three young boys to help them kill a spurned former lover in a Rotherham lay-by, have been sentenced to life in prison.

Following a 13 week trial, jurors found Leonie Mason, 23, and Shiraz Bashir, 42, of murdering Craig Preston in a lay-by off Town Lane, Rotherham on August 22 last year.

Craig Preston was killed by Mason, Bashir and three teenage boys in a lay-by off Town Lane, Rotherham on August 22 last year

Craig Preston was killed by Mason, Bashir and three teenage boys in a lay-by off Town Lane, Rotherham on August 22 last year

Mason was Mr Preston's on-and-off again girlfriend, while Bashir was her jealous new boyfriend.

The murder

The court heard how after they and their three teenage accomplices subjected Mr Preston to fatal injuries using their hands and feet in the lay-by, Mason and Preston traveled to a disused tunnel near to the Woodhead Pass in Derbyshire. Before leaving the lay-by Bashir took a picture of Mr Preston as he was lying bleeding to death in the boot of Mason's car as a 'souvenir'.

After stripping the 34-year-old from the waste down, in what Justice Stephen Males described as a bid to 'inflict additional humiliation and degradation' on Mr Preston, they then threw his body down a nearby ravine.

After being involved in a fatal group attack on Mr Preston, Mason and Bashir stripped him from the waist down and threw his body down a ravine near to a disused tunnel near the Woodhead Pass

After being involved in a fatal group attack on Mr Preston, Mason and Bashir stripped him from the waist down and threw his body down a ravine near to a disused tunnel near the Woodhead Pass

Mr Preston died of multiple head injuries and his body was found by dog-walkers the following morning.

The verdict

It took jurors just over two days to find Mason and Bashir, both of Holme Park Court, Huddersfield, unanimously guilty of Mr Preston's murder on May 17.

On trial alongside the couple were two 15-year-old boys and a 16-year-old boy, none of whom can be named for legal reasons, who were all found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter on the same date.

Bashir has been sentenced to life in prison, and will serve a minimum of 22 years before he is eligible for release

Bashir has been sentenced to life in prison, and will serve a minimum of 22 years before he is eligible for release

Sentencing

Just a few moments ago at Sheffield Crown Court Justice Males sentenced both Mason and Bashir to life imprisonment, both of whom Justice Males said had refused to show any remorse throughout the lengthy trial.

Justice Males told Bashir, who was on bail for an allegation of sexual assault at the time of the offence, he played a greater role in the 'painful and degrading' murder and must serve the highest minimum term of the pair - one of 22 years.

He told Bashir: "I consider that you are significantly the more culpable. You are older and more mature, and to some extent Leonie Mason was under your spell.

Mason has been sentenced to life in prison, and will serve a minimum of 19 years before she is eligible for release

Mason has been sentenced to life in prison, and will serve a minimum of 19 years before she is eligible for release

"You were the principal driving force behind the killing of Craig Preston. Although in the end Leonie Mason drove into the lay-by knowing full well what was going to happen, the evidence indicated she at least had some hesitation about going through with it. In my judgement, Craig Preston was killed primarily because of your determination that he would be."

Justice Males told Mason that she must serve a minimum of 19 years, adding that her troubled background provided 'some mitigation'.

He said: "You have had a dreadful life. Your parents were drug addicts who split up when you were a baby. You were taken into care. You lived with your father for a while, but he beat you and supplied you with drugs. You were raped when you were 12 or 13. You became pregnant by another man when you were 15. You have had a series of abusive relationships with men in which violence was normal.

"While this provides some mitigation it must not be taken too far. You are an adult capable of making choices and capable also of deliberately manipulative behaviour, as your treatment of Craig Preston demonstrates. You chose to throw your lot with Shiraz Bashir and to participate in the killing of your former partner - a man you claimed to love."

The court was told how two weeks prior to the fatal attack, Mason lured Mr Preston out to a 'quiet spot' in the Rotherham countryside where Bashir attacked him - but he escaped.

It was this 'set-back' that Justice Males said led to the couple recruiting three young boys, two aged 15 and one 14, to help them with their plan.

Justice Males told the three juvenile defendants, who were all found guilty of manslaughter, that he believed they all intended and did use criminal violence on Mr Preston as part of the planned group attack.

Justice Males handed each of the three boys different sentences - based on their different levels of involvement in the planning of and execution of the killing.

Boy A, 15, was sentenced to four years in prison.

Boy B, 16, was sentenced to three years, four months in prison.

Boy C, 15, was sentenced to three years in prison.

All three boys will serve their sentence in a youth prison, and will serve at least half of their sentences before they are eligible for release.

Press challenge to reporting restrictions on the identities of the three teens found guilty of manslaughter

Justice Males refused a request made by the Sheffield Star to lift reporting restrictions on the identities of the three boys due to the fact they were convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

He added that he believed 'identification now would involve a greater risk - that the publicity would hang over them upon their release on license and would make it harder for them to integrate into society'.

The investigation

Senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Steve Handley said the investigation had been 'complex,' involving over 40 different officers from South Yorkshire Police, Derbyshire Police and West Yorkshire Police.

DCI Handley said that at one point of the investigation, officers were taking evidence from 15 different crime scenes.

Commenting on the sentences passed this afternoon, he said: “After hearing 11 weeks of extensive evidence, the jury reached an important distinction between the actions of the adults and the juveniles in this case.

“The jury determined that Bashir and Mason executed a plan to murder Mr Preston, resulting in their significant prison terms today.

“They denied their guilt throughout and the severity and brutality of their crime is reflected in their lengthy sentences.

“The juveniles were found guilty of manslaughter, meaning that while they did play a role in Mr Preston’s death, the jury did not believe that they intended to kill him.

“All now face time behind bars for their crime and a complex police investigation now draws to a close.

“I wish to thank my team for their hard work and commitment throughout this inquiry and the partner agencies we have worked alongside over the last ten months.

Kevin Hollinrake MP for Thirsk and Malton Picture: Anna Gowthorpe

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