A British court has today heard a man admit carrying out the sexually motivated murder of a teenage college student.
Mark Buckley (aged 51) attacked 18-year-old Ellen Higginbottom, before taking her laptop and mobile phone and then leaving her for dead near a wheat field close to Orrell Water Park in Wigan, Greater Manchester.
Miss Higginbottom was reported missing after failing to return home from Winstanley College in Orrell on June 16. Her body was found the next day and a post-mortem examination confirmed she died from multiple wounds to the neck.
Today, shaven-headed Buckley, of New Hall Lane, Preston, pleaded guilty to the murder when he appeared at Manchester Crown Court. He replied “Guilty” when the charge was put to him and he was asked to enter a plea.
Mark Hayton QC, defending Buckley, asked Judge David Stockdale QC to adjourn the case until next week for sentencing.
The facts of the case were not given in court and further details will be revealed when Buckley is sentenced, but Neil Fryman, prosecuting, told the hearing: “There was a sexual motivation for this offence and also it was pre-meditated.”
David Steele (aged 47) of Oakley Avenue, Billinge, appeared alongside Buckley in the dock on today, charged with perverting the course of justice and handling stolen goods. He was not asked to enter a plea following an application by his lawyer, Brian McKenna. He will next appear in court on October 6.
Two other defendants, Dean Speakman and his partner Vicki Calland, both aged 30 and from Cobmoor Avenue, Billinge, each pleaded guilty last month to a single charge of perverting the course of justice and handling stolen goods.
Both admitted they handled the mobile phone, laptop and other property belonging to Miss Higginbottom and that they destroyed the property believing she had been murdered. Judge Stockdale remanded Buckley into custody for sentence on Thursday next week when he, Speakman and Calland will be dealt with.
After her murder, Miss Higginbottom’s family paid tribute to the teenage psychology student, who loved animals and enjoyed cooking and “messing on her phone”. In a statement released at the time, they said: “We could tell you about how excited she was when we tentatively suggested she might want a kitchen mixer for her 18th birthday.
“Not clothes and make-up and jewellery for Ellen, not really her thing. “We could tell you how she had astonishingly reinvigorated her love of learning over the last few months after some difficult times.
“We could tell you that the last time we ‘had words’ was in 2001 when she jumped in a puddle after being told not to.
“But none of this makes sense because they’re just yellow stripes highlighting the book of her life and you haven’t read the rest of it.
“If a legacy is planting seeds in a garden you never get to see, then thanks to people like our remarkable Ellen it’s coming to beauty and love and kindness.”