Date: 13 Dec 2000
Mark Corley was found dead in a ditch on farmland south of Bolam near Darlington just off the B6275.
He had been shot dead in the head at point blank range with a sawn-off shotgun and was thought to have been the victim of a gangland killing. He had gone missing in July 2000 and was thought that he had been shot around that time.
It was said that his shooting had been somewhat amateurish as Mark Corley's body had been left where it had fallen and that if it hadn't have been for some freak floods, it would have been found within days.
He had lived in Grantham in Lincolnshire. His body was found on 13 December 2000 by some farm labourers cleaning out a ditch by a bridleway. The location was about three fields west of the main B6275 road.
Five men were tried for conspiracy to murder but the charges against them were dropped after it was found that the police had secretly taped them talking to their lawyers in the exercise yards outside cells at two separate police stations. The recordings had happened after they had gone outside for a cigarette because they were not allowed to smoke in the interview rooms. The judge said, 'The police having deliberately obtained confidential information in the course of the inquiry has led to a position where they have compromised the trial process.'. The police had said that their application to bug a communal cell area covered other passageways and exercise yards etc.. However, the judge said it didn't cover recording conversations between the prisoners and their lawyers. It was noted that the police had applied for extensive monitoring during the investigation which also covered several addresses around Grantham between August and November 2000 before the men were arrested at which point they then applied to bug parts of Grantham and Sleaford police stations. The police had over 700 hours of records which generated transcripts with thousands of pages.
As a result of the trial collapsing, three senior police officers involved with the case were suspended pending disciplinary action over their actions.
It was said that the case was otherwise a very strong one against the five men.
The prosecution said that the men charged had killed Mark Corley after they had had a petty difference and Mark Corley had assaulted one of the five men.
It was noted that his body was found just off a bridle way, which is a public right of way even though there were other places such as woodlands nearby. It was also thought that the exact place where his body was found might well have only been known by a person with local knowledge of the area.
Mark Corley was said to have been involved in the local drugs trade in Grantham and a petty thief. He was also known to the courts and had served time in prison more than once. At the time he vanished in July 2000 he had only been out of prison for three months.
It was thought that his murder might have had something to do with an assault that he was convicted for in Grantham when he had thrown something at a car owner that had caused him serious injury after the car owner had complained when Mark Corley was looking at his car. It was said that after he got out of prison for the offence, having been sentenced to three years, there had been continued bad feeling in the area over the incident and that Mark Corley became a marked man and rumours were circulating that his days were numbered and that he was going to get hurt.
A little later it was said that some people that Mark Corley knew, and who were later charged with his murder, had made plans to rob an uncle who was wheelchair bound and lived on a remote farm. However, it was said that the uncle was armed with a shotgun and so they would need to be armed and needed Mark Corley as an extra man on the job.
Shortly before he vanished, Mark Corley visited his mother and asked for some clothes and some money to get a mobile phone, saying that he was going away for a few days. She said that he sounded evasive and said that she later found out that his closest friend was not going with him and said that it didn't sound right. She said that he promised to call her every day but said that that was the last time she ever saw him.
It was said then, by the prosecution, that Mark Corley and the other men had gone off with the supposed intention of carrying out a burglary and had been armed and that they had travelled north along the A1, and then near Bolam had stopped and that one of the men had then got out with Mark Corley and headed off through the fields towards the supposed remote farmhouse. However, it was said that Mark Corley was then shot and that the men then returned to the car and went back to Grantham.
The prosecution also said that one of the men charged with his murder had said, 'He’s got £2,000 on his head.' and 'There’s two blokes coming from Scotland for him.'.
The police said that they thought that Mark Corley had spent the night of 7 July 2000 with the men and that he was alive on 8 July 2000 after they traced some of his mobile calls. It was thought that he had then spent the night with the men but that after that nothing more was known.
Bolam near Darlington was noted as being about 150 miles north of Grantham.