Man was ‘bullied’ and tortured to death by ‘friends’ who made him wear dog lead

Fifteen years ago to the day a man with learning difficulties was sadistically killed by 'friends' in what a court described as 'unimaginable suffering.'

Steve Hoskin, 39, was punched, kicked, burnt with cigarettes, "walked" around on a dog lead and forced to eat 70 paracetamol tablets before he was killed on July 6, 2006.

Hoskin, who was illiterate and had the reading ability of a six-year-old, suffered hours of abuse at the hands of Darren Stewart, Martin Pollard, Sarah Bullock and two teenagers, who could not be named for legal reasons.

Bullock was said to have laughed as she stomped on the fingers of Hoskin as he clung on for his life 100ft above the ground, Cornwall Live reports.

In 2007, Truro Crown Court heard how Hoskin, of Blowing House Close in St Austell, had been subjected to mental and physical cruelty in which he was assaulted, violated and degraded.

The gang rolled him a final cigarette before forcing him to climb over the safety rail at Trenance Viaduct. Mr Hoskin, described as a child in a man’s body, landed on parked cars and suffered horrendous injuries.

Having been subjected to such sickening brutality he asked what he could do to make things better, said the judge, Mr Justice Owen.

The gang’s answer was to make him take approximately 70 paracetamol tablets. Not content with that, he was then walked up onto the viaduct where he was forced to climb over the railings and fall to his death.

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Justice Owen said at the time: “You literally bullied him to death. There was evidence in the course of the trial that he was terrified of heights. His suffering as he hung from those railings is unimaginable.”

The Judge told Stewart that there were a number of aggravating features in his case, adding: "Your victim was particularly vulnerable by reason of his severe learning difficulties. He was described by witnesses as a child in a man’s body."

Dealing with Bullock, the judge determined from her counsel Richard Smith who was mitigating that she was under the influence of her partner as he had detached her from her friends and got her involved with drugs.

Pollard, said the judge, allegedly had not intended Mr Hoskin should die and he would be charged with manslaughter.

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Pollard's lawyer added he was "deeply shocked and remorseful" over the incident, and Geoffrey Mercer, QC, mitigating on behalf of Stewart said he had volunteered to discuss the effect of drink and drugs to help young people.

Gang leader Stewart, 30 at the time, was jailed for at least 25 years for murder and his girlfriend Bullock, then 17, was detained for 10 years for murder. Then 21-year-old Pollard was convicted of manslaughter and received a determinate sentence of eight years.

It is thought that Stewart remains in prison, the whereabouts of Bullock and Pollard are not known.

The case also sparked drastic improvements to Cornwall Council's adult safeguarding service to increase the awareness of agencies when someone in their care becomes a victim of abuse.

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