A man accused of killing his cousin during a violent sex game has been found not guilty.
Mark Pickford was discovered by police asleep in his cousin Dawn Warburton's bed, which was covered in blood. Her body was found hanging above him, with rope he owned tied several times around her neck. She had injuries to her body and arms. During the trial, Pickford said he couldn't remember anything from that night because he blacked out from drinking and taking drugs. Via the Manchester Evening News:
A jury was told how Mr Pickford, from Longsight, had exchanged a string of violent sexual texts with his 40-year-old cousin in the weeks before her death – one of which read: "You're getting tied up, I will treat you like a random victim, gonna do you Manchester style."
Prosecutors at his trial alleged Mr Pickford was guilty of assault and manslaughter by gross negligence because he breached his 'duty of care' towards Miss Warburton during a sex game.
He said the texts were sent when he was drunk. Pickford didn't deny having sex with his cousin, but he claimed it was never violent, only "ordinary sex."
The court was told how Miss Warburton and Mr Pickford had been out of touch for around a year before she sent him a text in March last year to say: "How's tricks cuz?" After exchanging a few more messages, talk turned to sex.
One exchange saw Miss Warburton write: "I scare myself the sort of dirty sex I'm into. It would warp your mind."
Mr Pickford then began to travel 100 miles from his home in Manchester to her home in Hull every week for sex. He added he had not engaged in sexual games with her before she died.
According to the Hull Daily Mail, Pickford said on April 12 he and his cousin drank Southern Comfort and took drugs including marijuana and crack:
Mr Pickford told the jury they had woken up the following day and found the rope above the bed, but neither had any idea what had happened.
"We both saw it and just laughed it off, we were still a bit drunk," he said.
He said he had rope marks and bruises around both his wrists.
"I think she might have tied me up, unbeknown to me," he said. Later that day, they began drinking again at around 4pm, again sharing a bottle of Southern Comfort and a can of lager.
He said: "I was sitting on the sofa and she was stood in front of me. Dawn took the can out of my hand and said it was hers because she paid for it.
"She poured half into a glass and passed me the can back. I took it and carried on drinking."
Pickford had no explanation for how his cousin died, claiming Warburton drugged him with diazepam which knocked him out cold and caused him to have no memories of what occurred during the night. According to the Hull Daily Mail, toxicity reports confirmed the presence of diazepam in his system. "Since finding out I had diazepam, I wonder if Dawn had put one, maybe two, in my can of beer or the bottle of Southern Comfort we were drinking from."
Members of Warburton's family broke down in tears in court when the verdict was read. Via Yahoo News:
Ms Warburton's daughter Samantha shouted at Pickford: "You're horrible doing that to my mum."
Detective Superintendent Christine Wilson, who investigated the case, praised Ms Warburton's family.
"Dawn's family have been incredibly strong and very unified," said D/Supt Wilson. "They have acted with huge dignity. To them, she was Dawn. Yes, she was sometimes misguided, but she was loved by her family regardless. Dawn idolised her kids. She would do anything for them and she wanted to be involved in their future."