Man who killed three people in five-day murder spree denies raping pregnant victim

14 February 2022, 16:29 | Updated: 14 February 2022, 17:40

Anthony Russell (centre) pleaded guilty to murdering Julie Williams and her son, David Williams (both pictured), as well as another woman he is accused of raping.
Anthony Russell (centre) pleaded guilty to murdering Julie Williams and her son, David Williams (both pictured), as well as another woman he is accused of raping. Picture: West Midlands Police

By Emma Soteriou

A man has pleaded guilty to murdering three people in just five days but denies raping one of the victims who was pregnant.

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Anthony Russell, 39, previously denied murdering Julie Williams, 58, her son David Williams, 32, and Nicole McGregor, 31, in October 2020.

He was due to go on trial at Warwick Crown Court from Monday accused of three counts of murder before he changed his pleas to guilty.

Russell previously admitted the manslaughter of all three victims, and is still standing trial for one charge of rape, having pleaded not guilty.

Ms Williams and her son were found dead in separate flats in Coventry on October 25 and October 26 respectively.

Ms McGregor was later found dead in Leamington Spa on October 29 of the same year.

Russell strangled Mr Williams with a lanyard, leaving the body under his bed where it was only found by police five days later, covered in 87 injuries.

Mr Williams was murdered on October 21 after going to Russell's flat, where they were "probably taking drugs together", said the Crown's QC.

Meanwhile, Mr Williams' mother was found face down in her flat, having died from a bleed on the brain.

Julie Williams was murdered in her flat on the night of October 24/25.

It is likely Russell "duped" his way into her home, by claiming to know something about the then disappearance of her son, Zoe Johnson QC said.

In between the killings, he robbed a man - Brian Warr - of £30.

Russell had strangled and beaten her in a "violent and sustained attack" in which she was hit five times over the head and neck, prosecutors said.

He afterwards "confessed" to various people he had killed a man in the days following, alleging it was because he had believed the victim "had sex with his girlfriend".

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Russell, of no fixed arrest, was arrested in Rolleston-on-Dove, Staffordshire, on October 30 after a huge search effort by police, according to the Mirror.

Having fleed Coventry, Russell robbed 71-year-old Nicole Crisp of £200 in nearby Kenilworth, Warwickshire, before arriving in Leamington Spa on October 26.

Ms Johnson, opening the case, told jurors on Monday that between October 21 and his arrest on October 30, Russell had "embarked on a campaign of crime" then lied in "callous and calculating fashion" to cover up his offences.

"He murdered three people, raped one of his victims before killing her, seriously attacked another, leaving him with life-changing injuries, and robbed another two people," she added.

She said: "The defendant has pleaded guilty to the murders of David Williams, Julie Williams and Nicole McGregor, who was five months pregnant at the time.

"He has also pleaded guilty to attacking and robbing Roy Lavens and to robbing Brian Warr and Nicole Crisp.

"The defendant does not admit raping Nicole McGregor, just moments before he strangled her."

In the river-side town, Russell approached a couple - Christopher White and Nicole McGregor - who begged in Leamington.

The three made an agreement to buy drugs, later smoking them together.

Ms Johnson said: "Nicole told the defendant she and Christopher were expecting a baby.

"She proudly showed the defendant a pregnancy scan that she had on her telephone.

"The defendant congratulated them both."

Having left Mr White to go to their usual begging spots, CCTV later showed Russell "walking alongside" Ms McGregor.

He is said to have "lured" Ms McGregor to nearly Newbold Comyn park "not for sex, but more likely for drugs" before allegedly raping and then killing her.

Russell, having killed Ms McGregor, slept rough that night but then went and found Mr White the next morning and told him a series of "elaborate" lies about the woman's whereabouts.

It was on October 28, when a friend showed Mr White an image of a man wanted for the Williams killings in Coventry, he recognised it as Russell and "in shock" went to the police.

A search team later found her body down a steep path, covered in scratches, "in dense underground", likely after being dragged there in a bid to conceal the crime.

She died as a result of neck compression caused by ligature strangulation, with the post-mortem discovering she had been carrying a "fully-formed female foetus".

Ms Johnson said: "The prosecution suggest the state of Nicole's body gives the lie to the defendant's claim that Nicole McGregor consented to sex."

Russell then attacked and robbed Roy Lavens, carjacking his Ford C-Max in an escape bid.

On October 30, police spotted the red Ford parked in Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, about 50 miles from Leamington.

Russell was found "lying across the back seats" of the car and arrested at 4.17am.

He denies rape and the trial continues.