April 02, 2022
At 3.30PM on the 27th of March 2016, the body of a man was discovered on a piece of barren land in the North East of England, just off the A187 motorway. The body was wrapped up in two sleeping bags near the Tyne tunnel (a toll tunnel designed for vehicles that runs under the river Tyne). The green colour of the outer sleeping bag camouflaged the body in the trees and shrubs. Later examination would reveal that the man been dead for around 6 weeks, his body was in a state of decomposition and had been partly eaten by wildlife.
The cause of death was not certain, but the forensic pathologist on the case noted that one of the man’s testicles had been cut from the scrotum and was missing, his teeth had been knocked out of his mouth and he had suffered at least four severe beatings over the several months leading up to his death. The combination of injuries the man had sustained indicted prolonged abuse and torture. He was estimated to have been murdered between the 5th and 10th of February 2016.
He was later identified as 43 year old Jimmy Prout, who lived no more than 100 meters from where his body was found and had been missing for around a month before being discovered. Bank records show that cash was repeatedly withdrawn from the victims account after he was dead. Since his body was originally dumped with his wallet still on his person, this meant that the perpetrators would have returned to his corpse to take it. CCTV would later show them withdrawing cash from various ATMs in the area on days that corresponded to when Prout would receive his benefit payments.
Mr. Prout had separated from his wife many years ago and no longer lived in the West end of Newcastle (where he was originally from) with her and his two children. His ex-wife hadn’t seen him for many years and states that she broke up with him after he had one too many run-ins with the law. Although he got often got into trouble, she said he was a good person and always ready to help out. He eventually moved to another area, Percy Main, just over a mile away, where he shared a house with his new partner, a 25 year old woman named Anne Corbett. The woman’s brother, Ivan Corbett, also lived at the residence.
This round-up of court proceedings details the deteriorating status of the relationship between Corbett and Prout, and mentions that Jimmy had bruising on his face at the hands of his partner.
An earlier newspaper report on the case shows that Anne Corbett was also missing around the same time as Mr. Prout, however she showed up alive and well, 20 miles away in Durham.
Jimmy Prout, it seems, was something of a drifter. He had only moved into the Percy Main residence two years before his murder, and before that had no fixed address. From what the local reports say, it seems he was homeless for a long period of time, likely sleeping rough and eating at various food banks and soup kitchens. This is probably why his attackers dumped him on a wasteland wrapped up in his sleeping bags as they possibly thought it would lead investigators to believe that he had died as the result of a transient lifestyle. The extent of his injuries and evident torture, however, would contradict the idea that he had simply died as a result of exposure to the elements.
Prout was described by neighbours as a meek man, “vulnerable” is a word they would use when questioned by the local media. He was said to be a nice man, who “would do anything for anyone”- one of those people he often helped out was a 42 year old Zahid “Zed” Zaman, a man who lived on the same street and was often seen going around the local area in a motorised wheelchair following a car accident. It is thought that Zaman was the one to introduce the victim to the street.
Zaman, nicknamed “Zed”, wasn’t spoken of as highly as Jimmy Prout, in fact, those in the neighbourhood would describe him as quite the opposite- aggressive, dominant, and controlling. He would have Jimmy do jobs for him and help him with various tasks, of course Jimmy “would never say no to anyone” and apparently always obliged no matter what. Those who lived locally would go as far as to say that Prout was more like a servant to “Zed”- and a badly treated one at that. Zaman and Prout belonged to what would later be described in court as “a cultish group” of friends, which Zahid Zaman was thought to be the leader. Local newspaper reports paint the picture of a manipulative and controlling leader, who in court claims that he did not partake in any acts of violence against “his best friend” Mr. Jimmy Prout.
While Jimmy’s body lay decomposing, Zaman pretended to be worried about his missing friend, acting as if he was frantically searching for him even though he knew full well what he and his group had done. When the police showed up to arrest him he made a big scene described by the investigators as “theatrical” and over the top. Those who knew him revealed that he was more able-bodied than he let on and could walk unaided. The court would accuse him of playing up his injuries in an attempt to appear as if he was physically unable to commit violence against the victim. This article in the Chronicle (a local newspaper) describes an interaction between Zaman and an aquaintance's mother where he admits to violently beating the victim on at least one occasion and even shows pictures of the injuries he inflicted and claimed “he (Prout) deserved it”.
The gang responsible for the murder of Mr. Prout consisted of Zahid Zaman and three women, two of which Zaman had had a relationship with at some point. At the time of the murder Zaman was in a relationship with then 49 year old cleaner Myra Wood. The two met on Facebook in 2009, but according to those who knew Myra Wood the relationship changed her completely. Under cross examination Wood’s daughter would state that her mother became withdrawn and isolated, they rarely saw her with anyone other than Zaman who had full control over her to the point of her taking orders. She would fail to respond to any contact from any “outsiders”, including her own children. Zaman would allegedly also pressure Wood to convert to Islam if she wanted to remain in a relationship with him. She would not be allowed to fraternise with non-muslims. According to fellow work colleagues they would regularly hear “Zed” screaming abuse at Wood in phone calls while she was at work.
Zaman was at one point in a relationship with another member of the circle- Care worker Kay Rayworth, 55, (He apparently lived at the same property despite being in a relationship with Wood) who he also met online. She too became isolated from her friends and family, would not interact with people she knew publically, and was seen to get hit across the head with a stick by Zaman on at least one occasion. As with Myra Wood, Rayworth would also be pressured by Zaman to convert to Islam. He would later threaten suicide following their split, an act of emotional blackmail that would lead to Rayworth getting back together with him. A work mate of Raywoth’s told the court that the 55 year old had stated that she hated Jimmy Prout.
Apparently “Zed” had claimed to the women that he had ties to gangs and for his own protection had to wear a bullet proof vest beneath his shirt while visiting other cities, and generally wore a body camera. Allegedly he claimed that he was a wanted man by various gangs but also had people under him to follow command. Could this possibly be part of the reason that the women obeyed him? Did they believe or at least fear these claims? Or did they voluntarily partake in the abuse of Mr. Prout for other reasons specific to themselves?
The defence described the group as “cultish”. Apparently there was a pecking order to the gang, and Prout was as low as you could get. He was said to be something of a lackey who was regularly abused both verbally and physically. He deteriorated dramatically in the months leading up to his death. This article in a local newspaper describes the group usually walking in single-file- Zaman leading, followed by the row of women behind him, and finally the victim trailing along at the back, usually stumbling around in a fragile state.
Not much has been published about Prout’s history other than the fact that he was separated from his wife, had two children who he did not live with him and that he was considered a vulnerable adult who spent years living rough. A doctor who had seen Jimmy on at least two occasions revealed that he was always accompanied by others (going on to describe the group) who spoke for him.
Jimmy didn’t say much during those appointments and those accompanying him would tell the GP how his wounds were self-inflicted or that he had been beat up by someone else. At one point the doctor stated that he arranged for Prout to receive some assistance from a local group helping those with learning disabilities, however nothing seemingly came of it.
Prout was vulnerable and became a victim of regular abuse that ultimately lead to his death. But why exactly was he the punch bag of the gang?
According to Zaman, Prout, along with Anne Corbett’s brother, Ivan, had robbed his home and stolen hundreds of pounds worth of his belongings. With Ivan no longer around, could Zaman have possibly administered repeated attacks on Prout and ordered his three followers to also abuse the man in retaliation? Were these consecutive instances of torture and abuse really nothing more than the revenge sessions of an aggressive and violent man? If this is the case, how did he manage to persuade the other 3 to partake in the horrific acts? Maybe they didn’t take much persuading. The trail is ongoing, so only time will unravel the truth behind the murder.
Following a phone call placed by Zaman to the police, the suspects were arrested one by one. Zaman blamed Corbett for the murder and the others eventually attempted to blame one other.
Zahid “Zed” Zaman, Myra Wood and Kay Rayworth were charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Anne Corbett was charged with murder as well as conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. They denied any involvement in the death of James Prout.
During the court case last month (March 2017, as I write this) the details of the alleged violence, torture and humiliation afflicted on Jimmy Prout would be more disturbing than anyone first thought.
Not only was Prout’s testicle cut out with a Stanley knife- but he was also forced to eat it. Zaman and Corbett argue over who did what, each blaming the other. The trail aims to untangle the happenings and figure out who was responsible for what, although regardless, they were all present and involved with the abuse, none doing anything to prevent the other from harming Jimmy.
To further incriminate the group, they also started a bonfire in the backyard around the time of the murder, most likely to destroy evidence. Despite the clean-up attempt Mr. Prout’s blood was still found on Corbett’s footwear.
Anne Corbett was the one to allegedly cut out and remove the testicle before dropping it into a cup of water and forcing Prout to consume it.
And his teeth? They were broken off in his mouth using a hammer and chisel. The whole ordeal is extremely disturbing. The victim was also allegedly forced to engage in sex with a dog before being killed. Details can be read here. [X]
In the months leading up to his death, Jimmy was described as dishevelled. At one point a neighbour attempted to help him walk as he had been so badly beaten that he was dazed and stumbling in the street.
Jimmy Prout eventually died as a result of his injuries, CCTV shows that the gang put his body in a sleeping bag and using a wheelchair, pushed him to the site where police eventually discovered the body.
The case is ongoing, but is regularly updated at the Chronicle live website here [X]
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