Two men who filmed themselves savagely beating a young man with learning difficulties and taunting him, telling him to “smile for the camera”, have been sentenced by Leicester Crown Court to life imprisonment for his murder.
In the early hours of 5 July last year, Joshua Hack, aged 21, and Keith Lowe, 22, lured Brendan Mason, a 23 year old man with learning difficulties, to a park, where they said they wanted to spend time with him, the Leicester Mercury reports.
When the three of them arrived at the park, Hack and Lowe hung Mason from a tree. They took turns hitting him while the other held him down for several hours, cruelly laughing and taunting him.
Mason was beaten unconscious, the two young men stripped him naked and threw his body in a pond, leaving him for dead in Abbey Park, Leicester. He was found by park groundsmen at 7.40 am naked, unconscious and bleeding and was airlifted to Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry.
Medics discovered Mason had 99 separate injuries to his head and body, including brain injury, five broken ribs and a collapsed lung. He died from his injuries later that day.
Hack previously admitted murder. However, Lowe denied it. However, he was forced to change his plea four days into his trial, after police produced video as evidence of what he did, which he had tried to delete from his phone.
The court heard the attack had been planned the night before and that Hack and Lowe misinterpreted his behaviour towards a girl at a party. Prosecutor Miranda Moore QC said: “They were describing Brendan as a paedophile and nothing could be further from the truth.”
Mason’s learning difficulties led to a bias in how his ordinary social interactions were perceived.
She added that police had recovered a “‘trophy’ picture of Lowe standing behind the naked and beaten Brendan, who is sitting cross-legged on the floor”.
A second video, lasting 53 seconds, was deliberately filmed on the mobile phone for others to see. The police managed to retrieve it from cloud storage, showing Lowe taking a direct part in the beating. Lowe had attempted to delete the footage from his phone.
Moore said: “The audio that goes with it makes that clear.”
The court heard that in the second video, Lowe says: “Brendan. Look at him. Told you whatever he’d done to you, I’d do worse to him, told you that. Move your hand away from your face. Move your hand away from your face now.”
Moore told the court: “Officers were able to see the video on the Cloud, showing an unfortunate scene.
“It shows Brendan’s battered and naked body with Lowe landing blows.
“It was being made for a third party to show them what happened to Brendan.”
The court was also presented with Facebook messages the pair were sending each other while they were in the park with Mason prior to the attack. They used the Facebook messages to plan the attack. Mason who had trusted the two men, believing they were his friends, had no idea to what was about to take place.
At 2:46am, Hack sent Lowe a message saying: “Just hit him and we can both ****off when he’s K’ Od. Just do it dude.”
Lowe replied: “Shall we do it because he’s f**ked me off with the lies.”
The court heard how Mason died from inflicted, brutal and unsurvivable brain injuries.
Mason’s family said in a statement: “It is not right how two evil people can do such a horrific thing and leave a massive hole in our lives that will never be filled again.
“Brendan was a lovely young man and he was so happy. He had numerous learning difficulties and very poor vision.
“Even though Brendan had numerous learning difficulties and was very easily led by others, he always knew right from wrong.
“The police have been a big part of our life for the past seven months; they have been amazing, but there will never be closure for us.”
Sentencing the two men to life in prison, Judge Michael Chambers said: “You [Lowe and Hack] subjected him [Mason] to a brutal and sustained attack in which you caused him great pain and humiliation.
“Brendan Mason was only 23 with his life before him. You subjected him to a merciless attack with extreme violence.
“He was sadly a vulnerable young man with learning difficulties. He was kicked mercilessly while naked. The video found was a chilling and deeply disturbing recording of Brendan naked, being kicked repeatedly to the head.
“He’s even told to remove his hands from his face so you can kick him. You subjected him to a brutal and sustained attack of extreme violence. You caused him great pain and humiliation.
“This was a planned attack, during which you filmed each other assaulting him and you revelled in what you had done, bragging to others. You stripped him naked and left him unconscious. He died later that day.”
The judge added that Hack had lied in his first interview with the police and had even gone with friends to lay flowers at the scene where Mason’s body was found. He said Lowe had bleached his bloodstained trousers, washed his hooded top and hidden his blood-spattered shoes in a bid to cover his tracks.
Senior investigating Officer Detective Chief Inspector Mick Graham said after the trial: “Brendan was known to the defendants and considered them as friends, and they lured him to the park with the full intention of hurting him.
“Brendan was subjected to a vicious, sustained attack which was filmed by his attackers on their phones.
“He was left naked and alone in the park having been brutally beaten.”
Hack and Lowe were caught on CCTV footage casually walking into a McDonald’s after they had stripped, hung and then beaten Mason into unconsciousness, seriously and fatally injuring him, and leaving him for dead.
Lowe had kept Mason’s mobile phone which he and his then girlfriend were using in the following days.