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Neil Taylor guilty of murdering James O'Rourke after body found at block of flats in Chatham

A drug addict has been convicted of murdering a homeless man whose half-naked body was found dumped in the stairwell of a block of flats.

The jury of eight men and four women returned the unanimous verdict on Neil Taylor after deliberating for 42-and-a-half hours spread over seven days.

One of his co-accused, Caroline Rushworth, was acquitted of murdering James O’Rourke and an alternative charge of manslaughter.

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James O’Rourke was found dumped in the stairwell
James O’Rourke was found dumped in the stairwell

She went pale and appeared to be on the point of collapse when the verdicts were returned on Friday.

She slumped back into her seat before being told she would be released from custody.

Her parents had been in court for most of the trial, which started on September 4, but had left to go on holiday on the day of her acquittal.

Video: Man found guilty of murder after body found in Chatham.

The jury could not reach verdicts on the third accused Daniel Fox and a provisional retrial date was set for May 7 next year.

Miss Rushworth, 35, was embroiled in the drugs world in Medway and Judge Philip Statman expressed concern about her future.

“One of the matters she mentioned in the course of her evidence she has been in custody right the way through and become drugs free, and she has learnt a great deal from being detained in custody.

“What I want to try and ensure the best I can that when she is released it is with some degree of security. She may well feel she is drugs free in prison now.

“We don’t want to see her back - or dead on the stairs somewhere because she is taking drugs...” - Judge Philip Statman

“There are enormous temptations when she gets outside. The court wants to ensure a holistic approach to the future.

“We don’t want to see her back - or dead on the stairs somewhere because she is taking drugs.”

Miss Rushworth, Taylor, 36, both of Caulkers House, Shipwrights Avenue, Chatham, and Fox, 35, of no fixed address, all denied murder and manslaughter.

They were arrested after 29-year-old Mr O’Rourke’s body, clad in just boxer shorts, was found on a stairwell at Caulkers House at about 7.20am on Bank Holiday Monday, August 28, last year.

James O'Rourke’s body was found on a stairwell at Caulkers House in Chatham. Picture: Google Street View
James O'Rourke’s body was found on a stairwell at Caulkers House in Chatham. Picture: Google Street View

He was lying face down between floors four and five. He had been beaten, stabbed and tied up before being taken to the stairwell in a shopping trolley.

He had multiple injuries to his head, neck, face, torso and limbs, including eight fractured ribs and a 32.5cm-long double incision down his chest and stomach.

He had ligature marks where he had been tied up around his ankles and thighs with twine.

Maidstone Crown Court heard the last sighting of him was on CCTV cameras arriving at Miss Rushworth’s sixth floor flat just before 10.45pm on August 26 last year.

Fox was seen arriving at the flat the same evening and then leaving at 8.30am the next day.

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

The prosecution case was that all three acted together. They each denied being responsible for his death.

Miss Rushworth told in evidence she should have done more to save Mr O’Rourke’s life.

She said she was sorry for not alerting emergency services as he lay on her kitchen floor, having been beaten and tied up.

But she added she was frightened of what could happen to her after she was told not to grass.

"I know I should have done more,” she said. “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."

They took heroin, crack, prescription medication and alcohol, and a row broke out when Mr O’Rourke was accused of taking Miss Rushworth’s drugs.

She told the jury: "I was out of my head and upset but not enough to be violent. I know I have acted very, very stupidly but I haven't killed anybody.”

Taylor will be sentenced after Fox's retrial.


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