An electrician was shot in the face and doused in acid in revenge for an alleged rape, a court has heard as his murderers were jailed.
Liam Smith, a father-of-two, was lured outside his home and killed in a “brutal and cold-blooded murder” in Wigan on Nov 24 last year.
Rachel Fulstow, 37, from York, and Michael Hillier, 39, from Sheffield, were given life sentences on Thursday after a trial at Manchester’s Minshull Street Crown Court.
Fulstow, who started seeing Hillier in 2021, had previously been on a date with Mr Smith in York in 2019, the court heard.
Hillier told the court she had confided in him in 2022 that she had been “graphically raped” by Mr Smith and that together they decided to “go down the vigilante route” to “seek justice”.
In a statement outside the court, Mr Smith’s family said he was innocent and he had been “denied the chance to publicly clear his name”.
Sentencing the pair, Judge Maurice Greene said whatever happened on the night appeared to be the underlying motive for the attack.
He said: “It was decided between you, you would execute your own vengeance.
“The two of you decided to act as judge, jury and executioner.” He described the murder as “brutal and cold-blooded”.
Addressing Fulstow, a Leeds University graduate, the judge said it was “almost incomprehensible” that she had acted the way she had.
He added: “Whatever happened between you and Liam Smith can never be justification for what you and Michael Hillier did.”
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Cannabis dealer Hillier travelled from Sheffield to Wigan three weeks before the murder, and carried out reconnaissance on Mr Smith’s address, the court heard.
Hillier then went back to Sheffield before returning to the house on Nov 24, and waiting for 10 hours in a car with fake number plates, armed with a shotgun.
At about 6.40pm, he lured Mr Smith out of his house and shot him with a modified shotgun before pouring acid and soda crystals over him, the court was told.
Hillier was arrested on suspicion of murder in January 2023 and Fulstow in February 2023.
Fulstow claimed she knew nothing of the attack until Hillier arrived at her house in Andrew Drive, York, and was “petrified” to go to the police.
The court heard that in the days after the killing the couple went on holiday to Jamaica together.
The pair were given life sentences with minimum terms of more than 30 years. Hillier was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 33 years in prison and Fulstow was found guilty of murder and perverting the course of justice. She was sentenced to 30 years.
In a statement read to the court, Mr Smith’s mother, Julia, said he was a “devoted father” to his sons, aged 11 and 14, and a “gentleman”. She told the court: “We are never going to be able to fill this massive void which has been left in our lives.”
Louise Blackwell KC, mitigating for Hillier, said he would not have carried out the attack were it not for his drug addiction and the influence of Fulstow.
She said: “Of course, Mr Hillier took the lead role in the sense that he went and he was the person who carried out the acts but it was under pressure from Fulstow.”
Det Chief Insp Gina Brennand of Greater Manchester Police said: “My thoughts and the thoughts of the investigation team will always remain with Liam’s family. They will never ever get over this tragedy, nor should they be expected to, and the actions of Michael and Rachel were nothing short of despicable.
“On the night of Liam’s murder, police and other emergency services were working incredibly hard to try and ascertain the facts. It was unclear what had happened to Liam that night and it was very concerning for local residents.”
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