WITNESSES have described seeing a male behaving suspiciously – dragging a wheelie bin through a cemetery in the days before a teaching assistant’s body was found there.

Preston Crown Court heard statements from several witnesses after a 17-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is alleged to have murdered teaching assistant Lindsay Birbeck in woods in Accrington before using a wheelie bin to move her body.

Lindsay’s body was found on August 24 in a makeshift grave at Accrington Cemetery.

Stephen Greenwood, who was working at a house in Burnley Road, Accrington, on August 17, said he saw a man, later identified to be the defendant, pulling a wheelie bin on the pavement towards the cemetery.

In a statement read out to court, Natalie Bartholomew, who had been out walking her dog with her partner, Nick Haworth, near their home in Burnley Road, said she noticed a man coming towards them, pulling a wheelie bin. The man stopped and let the couple go past.

Miss Bartholomew said she thought it was unusual for a man to be pulling a wheelie bin there and it seemed as if the bin was heavy.

Mr Haworth described the man pulling the wheelie bin as “shifty” as he kept his head down as they walked past.

The court heard another witness statement from Elaine Hewitt, who said they saw a man dragging the wheelie bin in Accrington Cemetery.

Ms Hewitt said she thought the man was going to dump litter.

The jury was told she watched the man sit on the bin for around five minutes, looking at some bushes near the railway track.

Ms Hewitt said the man had been struggling to move the bin.

When describing the man, she said he was looking down towards his phone and “acting suspiciously.”

With Ms Hewitt was Patricia Lee, whose statement said she was “gawping or glaring” at the man and thought he was “out of order” as she initially thought he was going to be dumping rubbish in the cemetery.

The court heard how Christine Alderson had been walking her dog with her daughter, Penny, in the cemetery on Sunday, August 18.

Ms Alderson spotted a bloodied tissue in the grass.

She described it as white, four or five inches long with not a lot of blood on it, but it was fresh.

The court heard she left the tissue, which looked like a long piece of toilet roll, where it was as she believed it belonged to a homeless person who had been spotted in the area before.

She also spotted flattened ground nearby which looked like “someone had walked through” and described it as “like a wheelie bin had been pulled through undergrowth.”

The court heard Daniel Westwell had found a blue wheelie bin in the cemetery while he was out searching for Lindsay on Monday, August 19, at around 8pm.

He said he found the bin in some bushes and it “smelled clean” and was “bright blue”.

CCTV footage was shown to the jury of the defendant walking over grass away from the area where Lindsay’s body was discovered on Tuesday, August 20, at around 2.30pm.

The court heard PC John Cuthbertson, a police dog handler, was tasked with searching the cemetery at 9.30am on the same day.

PC Cuthbertson said he discovered the wheelie bin during the search six metres from where Lindsay was eventually found.

A picture of a blue wheelie bin found in bushes was shown to the jury – the photo was taken by search volunteers Gemma Hudson, Leanne Singleton and Sarah Thistlethwaite at around 9pm on August 20.

The searchers rang the police and officers were called to the scene.

A police officer used a wet tissue to touch a brown smear, which had the appearance of mud, that was on the bin.

DS Bowler said there was no evidence to link the bin to Lindsay’s disappearance at that stage.

Jonathan Kell went searching with his dog, Oscar, on August 20.

The jury heard that after being let off his leash in the cemetery, Mr Kell noticed his dog had a patch of blood on his paw.

Following further inspection, he also had small speckles of blood on his stomach.

The statement read: “I started examining his paw but could not see an injury. He was not limping.

“I thought this was strange. When I felt around his paw he did not react to it.”

Patricia Stephenson had taken her dog to the cemetery between 8.30am and 9.15am on Wednesday, August 21, the jury heard.

She found a blue wheelie bin in some shrubbery.

In her statement, she said: “I panicked because I was aware of a missing lady. I have never seen one there before. I pulled my dog leash to walk off. I did not want to get closer.”

The jury heard the woman had walked around there the day before and had not spotted the bin, and she reported it to a cemetery worker.

The youth denies murder.