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Murder trial of James O'Rourke latest

By KentOnline reporter

A woman on trial with two men accused of murdering a friend described the dragging and dumping of his half-naked, battered and bloodied body out of her flat and into a stairwell as "a horror film", a court heard.

Caroline Rushworth told police after her arrest that James O'Rourke's body was moved by one of her co-defendants, Neil Taylor, after he ordered her not to call an ambulance.

The 35-year-old denied helping Taylor or being involved in any of the alleged violence which led to the victim's death.

James O’Rourke
James O’Rourke

But Maidstone Crown Court heard today she admitted she should have done more to try and save him after she discovered him "bashed in" but still alive almost 24 hours earlier.

Rushworth told police she was sorry for not alerting emergency services as Mr O'Rourke lay on her kitchen floor, having been beaten, tied up and stripped to his boxer shorts.

She claimed she was frightened of what could happen to her after she was told not to 'grass'.

Rushworth, Taylor and Daniel Fox are accused of murdering Mr O'Rourke at her home in Caulkers House, Chatham, over the August Bank Holiday weekend last year.

Asking police at the end of her interview whether she was "in trouble", Rushworth added: "I know I should have done more. I've never done anything wrong in my life.

"I'm sorry, I was frightened of them and I should have just called the ambulance anyway."

Mr O'Rourke's lifeless body was discovered by other residents between floors four and five at the flats in Shipwrights Avenue at about 7.20am on Monday, August 28.

The 29-year-old had suffered multiple injuries to his head, neck, face, torso and limbs, including a long cut down his chest and stomach.

James O'Rourke's body was found at the block of flats
James O'Rourke's body was found at the block of flats

Mr O'Rourke also bore ligature marks where he had been tied up around his ankles and knees with blue cord.

He was last seen alive on CCTV going into the flats with Rushworth and Taylor, 36, at about 10.45pm on Saturday, August 26.

They had bumped into him in Chatham earlier that day and Rushworth invited him back to her flat where she said she would cook him 'a decent dinner'.

She also gave Mr O'Rourke a change of clothes belonging to her boyfriend who was in prison at the time.

CCTV at the flats, where Taylor also lived, showed 35-year-old Fox, of no fixed address, arriving just before midnight.

The court heard that as the friends indulged in heroin, crack, prescription drugs and alcohol a row broke out at about 5am after a share of Rushworth's drugs went missing.

Mr O'Rourke was accused of taking it and a scuffle broke out between him and Taylor.

Rushworth told police she 'stropped off' into her bedroom as the two men exchanged punches in her hallway and she then 'zonked out'.

"When I sort of moved him he made like a grumbling sound and the boys said he didn't want an ambulance" - Caroline Rushworth

But she said she then woke at about 8am to find a badly beaten Mr O'Rourke laying on his back on her kitchen floor with his hands over his stomach and wearing just his underwear.

She said his head was 'bashed in', he was tied up and there was blood 'everywhere'. But her friend was still alive, she maintained.

"I checked and he had a pulse. When I sort of moved him he made like a grumbling sound and the boys said he didn't want an ambulance," Rushworth told police.

She cut off the cord around Mr O'Rourke's legs, describing the tying of him as 'so mean', and told police he was breathing and had a faint pulse.

"I tried to make him comfortable," added Rushworth. "I put a towel under his head and made sure he was alright.

"I tried to clean him a bit but there was a lot of blood. It was just too much."

Asked whether there was any reason why she did not call the emergency services, Rushworth first claimed Mr O'Rourke told her himself he did not want an ambulance.

But she later admitted that it was her co-defendants who told her Mr O'Rourke had said he did not want one.

The trial is taking place at Maidstone Crown Court
The trial is taking place at Maidstone Crown Court

She also claimed Fox, who she refused to refer to by name, had warned her she had "better not grass" on him.

"If I would have done that, if I would have got the ambulance, and they told me not to....I was scared of Neil and the other man."

Rushworth described herself as remaining 'zonked' that day, having taken more of the tranquilising drug, Rivotril.

She left her flat and it was only when she tried to get back in at about 4am on Monday, August 28 that she realised her friend had died.

She had locked herself out and panicked when she called Mr O'Rourke's name but received no response.

Having retrieved a spare key from a neighbour, she let herself and Taylor back in and then made the grim discovery.

"I was 'Oh my God, he is dead'. I wanted to call 999. Neil was in a right panic, a real bad panic, and he daren't call them," she told police.

"He knew we had heroin in the flat and said I would lose the flat.

"He was 'We'll take him outside the flat'. I was like 'No, we are not doing that'. I was really losing it. I was pacing up and down, pulling my hair out.

"I know I have done wrong just by being bullied into not calling 999" - Caroline Rushworth

"It was an accident. Neil would never kill anybody. I didn't see any of it but Neil wouldn't kill someone."

Rushworth also told police that the other man had 'beat the s**t' out of Mr O'Rourke and cut him. CCTV showed Fox leaving the flat at 8.30am on the Sunday. He did not return.

She added that Taylor told her he had only kicked Mr O'Rourke but would be 'done for manslaughter' if she called an ambulance and so moved the body out of her flat.

"Neil dragged the body outside. I had no part in dragging the body. I think it's the most stupid thing he has ever done. He was scared," she told officers.

"He was my friend and he didn't want me to call police which is what I think we should have done in the first place. I think he just panicked."

Asked whether she saw the removal of Mr O'Rourke's body from her flat, she replied: "I was there, I was nothing to do with it. I was telling him not to do it."

But she said she did not know if Taylor dropped the body as he dumped him in the stairwell.

"I was too busy pacing up and down and screaming at him. I couldn't believe he was being this stupid. It looked like something out of a horror film.

"I couldn't believe this was happening. It was surreal."

Rushworth said Taylor also threatened to smash her phone if she dialled 999.

"He got in my face, he was upset, he was scared. That's not what he would normally do."

She maintained in her interview that her only involvement was to cut the cord from Mr O'Rourke's legs and mop up a large pool of blood on the floor.

She added: "I know I have done wrong just by being bullied into not calling 999."

The trial continues.

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