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James O'Rourke murder case: Ryan Ringer tells court of seeing body in stairwell at Caulkers House, Chatham

A father living at a block of flats has told of his shock at discovering the half naked body of a man in the stairwell as he went out with his partner and young child.

Ryan Ringer said the man – James O’Rourke – was wearing just boxer shorts and lying face down in blood. His back was covered in bruises.

“To be honest, I was a bit shocked,” Mr Ringer told a jury. “I just wanted to get out of there and get my baby out of the area as soon as possible.”

James O'Rourke
James O'Rourke

He was giving evidence at the trial of Caroline Rushworth, Neil Taylor and Daniel Fox, who are all accused of murdering 29-year-old Mr O’Rourke.

The prosecution at Maidstone Crown Court alleges the victim was killed at Rushworth’s fifth floor flat at Caulkers House in Shipwrights Avenue, Chatham, and his body was then dumped between the fourth and fifth floors.

Prosecutor Philip Bennetts QC said Mr O’Rourke was attacked and tied up with twine after Rushworth accused him of stealing her last heroin.

“The prosecution case is these three defendants, acting together, killed Mr O’Rourke,” he said.

A post mortem examination revealed Mr O’Rourke had 30 injuries, including eight fractures to his ribcage and a 30cm long “double track injury” down the centre of his chest. There were ligature marks around both legs.

He had multiple blunt injuries to the head, trunk and limbs and lacerations and bruises to his face. There was a significant head injury.

Mr O’Rourke, who had drunk alcohol and used heroin and cocaine, died from a traumatic brain injury.

Mr Ringer said he was at home on the fifth floor at about 11pm on Sunday, August 27 last year when he heard snoring.

He looked outside and saw Rushworth and a man she believed to be her partner, Taylor, asleep outside their flat.

The body was discovered at the block of flats
The body was discovered at the block of flats

“I noticed he had a mark or cut on the left side of his face,” he said. “I went back inside.”

The next morning at about 7am, Mr Ringer and his partner Helga Szucs left their flat with their child to go to Margate.

The lifts were being replaced on the odd number floors and they started to walk down to the fourth floor to get the lift there.

“Helga saw the body first,” said Mr Ringer. “She said: Ryan, there’s somebody lying on the stairwell.’ I passed her and had a look. That’s when I see a person lying in the stairwell.

“I said two or three times: ‘Hello mate, are you OK?’ I tapped him gently with my foot. I didn’t know if he might be intoxicated or not. He didn’t reply.

“I said to Helga: ‘I think he is deceased.’ He was lying face down. He had a pair of dark coloured boxers on which were pulled half way down.

“There were lots of injuries on his back. His whole back was covered in bruises. There was blood where he was lying.”

Mr Ringer said he went to see his mother Sara Ringer, who was staying at the flat of her partner Andrew Odley, and told her to phone the police.

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

Mr Ringer went to the sixth floor and saw Rushworth and Taylor in the lift trying to get the doors shut.

“I spoke to them,” he said. “The first thing I said was: ‘Are you aware there is a dead body in the stairwell?’

Rushworth replied either “It has got nothing to do with me” or “It has got nothing to do with us’.

All three of them went down to have a look. “I believe she said it was someone called James or Jamie from Folkestone,” said Mr Ringer.

“I didn’t want to hang around. I just wanted to get out of there. It was a bit of a shock.”

He and his partner left with their child and went to Chatham railway station to get a train.

Mr Ringer added he thought it was a bit strange that Rushworth and Taylor walked up to the sixth floor to get the lift, rather than down to the fourth floor.

Rushworth, 34, Taylor, 36, and Fox, 35, all deny murder.

The trial continues.

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