Two people have found guilty of murdering a man who was subjected to a sickening torture.
The body of James Prout was found on wasteland near his home address in St Stephen’s Way, Percy Main, on Easter Sunday last year – just two days after he was reported missing.
But the 43-year-old had not been seen by family or friends since the beginning of February 2016.
During a trial at Newcastle Crown Court, the jury heard that Mr Prout had been brutally tortured by four of his friends and neighbours.
Ann Corbett, 26, and Zahid Zaman, 42, both of St Stephen’s Way, Percy Main, were found guilty of murder.
Their co-accused Myra Wood, 49, and Kay Rayworth, 55, also of Percy Main, were found guilty of causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable adult.
The court heard that Mr Prout was reported missing at around 8am on Good Friday but had not been seen by friends or family since early February.
Police launched a murder investigation and carried out a number of inquiries at Mr Prout’s home address and at 3.30pm on Easter Sunday they found a body.
The court heard that Zaman believed Mr Prout had stolen from him and, along with Corbett, subjected Mr Prout to sickening torture and attacks, which included cutting out a testicle and forcing him to eat it, knocking his teeth out, and forcing him to have sex with Zaman’s dog.
After Mr Prout died, they dumped his body in wasteland, stole his bank card to fleece his account but pretended to be concerned for his whereabouts and joined in the search for him.
Zaman and Corbett, who had been in a relationship with the victim, are facing life sentences.
All four will be sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court next Tuesday.
After the jury returned its verdict, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Fairlamb said: “This truly has been one of the most awful cases I have dealt with.
“The way these people treated this man was abhorrent. He was brutally tortured by these people who were supposed to be his friends.
“It’s hard to believe that a human being could have been treated in this way. Jimmy died a very poorly man and it is the actions of these four people that allowed this to happen.
“I hope today’s outcome brings some solace to Jimmy’s family and that they can move forward from this horrendous ordeal.
“As mentioned, Jimmy was visibly unwell before he died and was violently bullied at the hands of the offenders. He had visible injuries and was struggling to walk.
“It would have been difficult for people not to notice this happening or notice the ill-health of Jimmy.
“I want to stress to the public that if you do see anything that seems untoward or just doesn’t feel right then please report it to police.
“We do rely very much on information we receive from the public – they are the eyes and ears of the community.
“We all have a responsibility to help protect those must vulnerable in our communities and safeguarding really is everyone’s business, so please, if you do see something – say something.”