A YOUNG man was bludgeoned to death with a hammer after he spilled a drink in a friend's house, a court was told yesterday.

Twenty-five year old Darlington man Alan Youngson died from massive head injuries after being hit with a hammer in August last year.

Nearly two months later, his partially decomposed corpse was found in a shallow grave, near Jedburgh Drive, in the town's Branksome area - by his father and another man, Thomas Durham.

Teesside Crown Court heard how he had been missing since August 15 when the gristly discovery was made on October 7.

Yesterday, his friend Daniel Dodsworth, 29, denied murder, claiming he acted in self-defence. He admitted preventing the lawful burial of a dead body.

Opening the prosecution case Andrew Robertson said: “This is a case of murder and the pathological evidence and medical evidence demonstrates that the deceased died as a result of at least six forceful blows to the back of the head.

“Those blows had produced lacerations to the scalp, but also five depressed fractures to the skull.

“It appears the defendant used a hammer to administer those fatal blows.”

Mr Robertson said the attack happened in the dining area of Mr Dodsworth’s house, in Branksome Green, Darlington, on either August 15 or 16.

The jury heard how Mr Dodsworth allegedly used a wheelie bin to take the body to nearby woodland where he placed it in an existing hollow and covered it with soil.

He later used a second wheelie bin to take his carpet and other furniture to the woodland where he set fire to it, along with his clothes and the alleged murder weapon, prosecutors claim.

Police initially launched a missing persons inquiry after a number of people, including the Probation Service, became concerned about Mr Youngson’s whereabouts.

The jury heard that, when questioned by police, Mr Dodsworth initially told officers the pair had spent the night of August 15 drinking together and that he lent his bike to Mr Youngson so he could cycle home.

However, when police attended Peterlee Magistrates’ Court to obtain a warrant to search Mr Dodsworth’s home, they overheard a conversation between the defendant and Mr Durham, who said: “You are f****d... The fight started in your house.”

To which Mr Dodsworth allegedly replied: “He spilled drinks in the house.”

Mr Robertson told the jury: “The obvious inference from that conversation, what he himself said in the dock, is that (Mr Dodsworth) did what he did because he got angry with the deceased making a mess in his house by spilling drinks.”

Mr Dodsworth later changed his story, claiming he struck Mr Youngson two or three times with a hammer after he came after him with a knife, the court heard.

The trial continues.