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Life Sentences Handed to Couple who Acted as Judge, Jury, and Executioner in Wigan Murder Case

A couple who acted as “judge, jury, and executioner” have been handed life sentences for the murder of a man from Wigan whom they accused of rape. Liam Smith, aged 38, was shot in the face at close range on 24 November last year by Michael Hillier, a drug dealer from Sheffield, who then proceeded to pour sulphuric acid on his victim in an attempt to seek justice for his partner. Rachel Fulstow, aged 37, from York, claimed that she had no knowledge of the attack on Smith until afterwards, when fear prevented her from coming forward. Hillier and Fulstow were sentenced at Manchester’s Minshull Street Crown Court on Thursday to a minimum of 33 and 30 years respectively for conspiring and carrying out the murder. Judge Greene described it as an “brutal and cold-blooded” murder, stating that the couple had taken it upon themselves to act as judge, jury, and executioner. Addressing Fulstow, Greene expressed his disbelief at her actions, stating that nothing that transpired between her and Liam Smith could ever justify what she and Michael Hillier did. As they were escorted away, shouts of “monsters” and “scum” could be heard from the public gallery. Smith’s family expressed their devastation over his murder and the false accusation made against him. Liam Smith was described by his sister as a “kind-hearted soul”. His sister Gemma delivered a victim impact statement prior to the sentencing, describing how Liam was her rock and the one person she could always rely on. She expressed the profound impact that his murder had on her, emphasizing his kindness and willingness to help others. She concluded by stating that their lives had been completely destroyed and that no family should ever have to endure such a tragedy. During the trial, it was revealed that Hillier and Fulstow had gone on a holiday to Jamaica together shortly after the murder, leaving the police to piece together the events surrounding Smith’s death. After an extensive investigation, the couple were eventually located and arrested in January of this year. Detective Chief Inspector Gina Brennand, from Greater Manchester Police, described the case as a challenging mystery from the start, with no initial knowledge of the victim, witnesses, suspects, weapon, motive, or substantial evidence. She expressed her sympathy for Smith’s family, stating that they would never be able to fully recover from this tragedy, and described the actions of Michael and Rachel as utterly despicable.

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