Preston dad Steven May had suffered 76 rib fractures in the weeks before he died, murder trial told

A vulnerable man who was found dead in his home had suffered 76 rib fractures in the last 12 weeks of his life, a court has heard.

Thursday, 30th January 2020, 12:25 pm
Updated Thursday, 30th January 2020, 1:10 pm

Steven May, 50, who suffered Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, epilepsy, and alcohol dependency, was found clothed, on his fully made up bed - with injuries prosecutors say are "systematic of abuse".

It is alleged May's 'lodger' Darren Taylor, 45, who moved into Mr May's two bedroomed semi on Raven Street Preston, three months before his death, murdered him.

He denies the charge, saying he found him unresponsive on his bed with blood around his mouth, and is on trial at Preston Crown Court.

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An officer stands outside 31 Raven Street after Mr May was discovered

The jury heard there were multiple fractures to 21 ribs with only Mr May's first left rib and third right rib remaining intact, and he also had a badly fractured jaw which caused severe bleeding.

Home Office pathologist Dr Alison Armour concluded the injuries were due to blunt impact trauma, in keeping with punching, kicking and stamping, and possibly the use of a blunt object.

Prosecuting, Gordon Cole QC said: "In short form Dr Armour describes her findings this way: Steven May was the victim of a number of sustained and violent assaults in the last 12 weeks of his life.

"The assaults caused multiple rib fractures over this time period. A total of 76 rib fractures were identified involving 21 ribs with only the first left rib and third right rib remaining intact.

" Two further rib fractures were identified to the same rib – the right 10th rib one being over three months in age and the other over four months in age.

"The ageing of the 76 fractures dated from the immediate period prior to this man's death and up to 12 weeks."

The court was told an expert in rib injuries identified there were at least five serious assaults on Mr May in this time period leading up to his death.

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" Immediately prior to his death there was an assault that caused further, more acute rib fractures and clearly further compromised his ability to breathe.

"In addition, the assault prior to this man's death caused a very serious injury to the lower jaw with two separate fractures producing a free floating segment. This led to significant bleeding.

"It is the opinion of Dr Armour that it was the effects of the increasing respiratory difficulty, pain and significant blood loss from the fractures to the jaw which combined to cause this man's death."

Jurors were told the force required to fracture the ribs and the jaw would be "considerable" and that the fractured jaw would have prevented him from eating, drinking and speaking - and was not consistent with a fall.

The court heard blood spatter was found in the living room, as well as a cushion with blood on it half way down to the bin, and there is evidence of him being shouted at and belittled in the weeks before 
he was killed.

Mr May's daughter, Natalya, was the first to give evidence.

The court heard she lost contact with him due to his drinking and chaotic lifestyle, and last saw him in November 2018 when her grandmother passed away.

She said: "He was clean shaven but had lost a bit of weight."

She went to his home with her aunts on May 20, after learning of his death.

The court heard she was told by others Taylor was living with him but had never been to the house until then.

Defending, John Jones QC asked if she knew he didn't take his medication, and she agreed she had found lots of 'full medication boxes when she cleared his house out.

Mr May's sister, Michelle Halsall, who last saw him on the afternoon of May 18 when she took him pizza, cigarettes and spirits, also took the stand, telling the court she knew Taylor was living there.

She said: "I've seen him there and there were letters addressed to him."

The court heard she spoke to Steven about him being in the house and that he told her he was "just company for him" and prepared some meals.

She said she had promised their mum she'd look after him and that on this visit she told him to "sort himself out" because he "looked a mess".

He was sitting on the sofa, where he usually slept.

She added: " He puffed his cigarette and blew it like he always did, and I told him to eat his bl**dy food now."

Asked 'Did he speak to you', she replied: "Yes - he told he loved me when I was leaving."