Subhan Anwar murder trial: Accused were ‘horrendously calm’ while in cell with body

Subhan Anwar
Subhan Anwar

Two prisoners accused of murdering a convicted killer seemed “horrendously calm” while locked in a cell with his body, a trained siege negotiator has told a court.

Gary Smith and Lee Newell are alleged to have tied up and strangled Subhan Anwar while serving life sentences for murder at HMP Long Lartin in south Worcestershire.

Anwar was formerly of Batley and had links to Dewsbury. Earlier in the trial, jurors were told that Anwar was a convicted murderer but not told the details of his crime.

Anwar was pronounced dead on February 14 this year after Smith and Newell were removed from his cell following a stand-off with warders. His ankles were bound with tape.

Jurors have heard that a call was made from an intercom in Anwar’s cell to the prison’s security department at about 6.40pm, the caller claiming they had taken a hostage because they were “bored”.

Prison staff did not initially know if it was a joke and did not seek to force entry, instead talking through the door to those inside.

At 7.40pm, a warder looked through an eye-hole in the cell door and saw Anwar lying face down on his bed.

Giving evidence on the second day of a trial at Warwick Crown Court yesterday (Wednesday), prison officer Thomas Smith said he was sent to Anwar’s cell to establish whether the 24-year-old had been taken hostage. The trained negotiator, who knew both defendants, went to the cell at about 7.40pm after other prison staff were informed that Anwar was dead.

Describing how he talked through the cell door, the prison officer told the court: “I said ‘What’s going on? - what’s caused this situation?’ and he (Newell) said ‘I don’t know, I don’t know, I wish I knew myself’.”

Asked by prosecutor Peter Grieves-Smith to describe how Newell had seemed, he added: “It was calm, it wasn’t loud or distressed. He was just quite calm. He said ‘He’s gone, he’s with Allah’.”

After making the comments, Newell then removed a piece of cardboard covering an observation hatch, allowing prison officers to see into the cell.

Jurors heard Newell was seen standing near the door, while Gary Smith was sitting on a chair smoking a cigarette.

Anwar, who was serving a life sentence for murder imposed at Bradford Crown Court, was seen to be lying motionless and face down on a bed.

The court has heard how Newell was made a hot chocolate by Gary Smith as the two inmates waited to be taken to a segregation unit.

Mr Grieves-Smith asked prison officer Smith what the mood was like as they waited. “There was no real tension between them,” the officer said. “They were both horrendously calm.”

According to witnesses, both defendants were compliant as they were handcuffed and taken to the segregation unit on the evening of February 14.

Another prison officer, Mark Smith, was tasked with keeping check on the men every 15 minutes after they were moved to separate cells in the unit.

He told the court he observed Newell to be pacing around his cell after the alleged murder, while Gary Smith made himself a cup of tea and went to sleep.

Gary Smith, 48, and Newell, 44, both deny murdering Anwar.

Newell, who was convicted of murder in 1989, denies stealing a watch, prayer beads and a metal earring belonging to Anwar.

Smith, who the jury heard was convicted of murder in 1999, has admitted a charge of theft.

Anwar was 24 when he died and had received compensation after a previous incident in which he was assaulted by inmates.

The trial, which is expected to last for three weeks, was adjourned.