Our Liam was no rapist: Family say murdered father’s name was ‘tainted’ by fake rape claims as they pay tribute to ‘our rock’ after couple are jailed for life for gruesome acid killing

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The family of a father murdered by a woman and her boyfriend over claims he had raped her have hit out at those who ‘tainted’ his name – as the couple behind the killing were jailed for life.

Electrician Liam Smith, 38, was shot in the face on November 24 last year by drug dealer Michael Hillier in a depraved murder plot hatched with his girlfriend Rachel Fulstow. The pair then jetted off to Jamaica days later.

Hillier, 39, and Fulstow, 37, were jailed for life on Thursday having conspired to kill Mr Smith, after Fulstow claimed that she had been raped by the dad-of-two on a Tinder date in 2019.

As the pair were led away to begin their sentence, Mr Smith’s sister Gemma said: ‘Liam has done nothing wrong, he’s completely innocent.’ In response, Hillier called out to Smith’s family: ‘Your boy’s a rapist.’

But in a statement read outside Minshull Street Crown Court by Greater Manchester Police, Mr Smith’s family slammed those who sought to ‘taint’ his name, even in death.

Electrician Liam Smith was murdered by Michael Hillier and Rachel Fulstow after Fulstow claimed she raped him on a Tinder date in 2019

Electrician Liam Smith was murdered by Michael Hillier and Rachel Fulstow after Fulstow claimed she raped him on a Tinder date in 2019

Michael Hillier and Rachel Fulstow. Hillier will serve at least 33 years in prison before he can be released; Fulstow, who was also convicted of perverting the course of justice, must spend 30 years behind bars before she is eligible for parole

Michael Hillier and Rachel Fulstow. Hillier will serve at least 33 years in prison before he can be released; Fulstow, who was also convicted of perverting the course of justice, must spend 30 years behind bars before she is eligible for parole

Michael Hillier and Rachel Fulstow seen riding a motorbike together in an undated photo. Fulstow initially claimed to have known nothing of the plot to murder Mr Smith

Michael Hillier and Rachel Fulstow seen riding a motorbike together in an undated photo. Fulstow initially claimed to have known nothing of the plot to murder Mr Smith

Detective Chief Inspector Gina Brennand speaks to police after Hillier and Fulstow were found guilty of murder. She said Mr Smith's name had been 'besmirched' and 'tainted' during the trial

Detective Chief Inspector Gina Brennand speaks to police after Hillier and Fulstow were found guilty of murder. She said Mr Smith’s name had been ‘besmirched’ and ‘tainted’ during the trial

The statement, read out on behalf of the family by Detective Inspector Lee Shaw, read: ‘Liam was more than just a family member to us, he was our rock, OUR Liam.

‘He had the biggest and most kind-hearted soul and would literally do anything for anyone.

‘But we are always asking ourselves why did this happen to Liam? Why do his two boys now have to live with the knowledge that their loving father was taken away from them in the most barbaric of circumstances?

‘Liam’s two boys were his biggest legacy. He was genuinely the best dad ever and everything he did in life was for his two boys.

‘Liam cannot watch his two beautiful children grow up and experience their own life milestones – to see them as adults and to be a grandad. He would have been the best grandad ever, spoiling his grandkids absolutely rotten.

‘Liam will never get to do the things that fathers and sons should do – taking them off to college, taking them for their first legal pint whilst watching them both become adults.

‘His name has been tainted throughout this trial – and that wasn’t him, it is not our Liam. He has been denied the chance to publicly clear his name.

‘Liam’s life wasn’t the only one that was destroyed that night. Everyone who knew and loved Liam have been left completely heartbroken, devastated and traumatised by the events that happened on the 24 November. 

‘It has been a living nightmare for us all – something which we would never wish on any other family.

‘Unless your loved one has been murdered, you will never understand the magnitude of our feelings. Other humans have taken his life, other humans are the cause of this loss and pain and we will never get over this.’

The trial heard Rachel Fulstow’s claims that she had met Mr Smith for a date in York in 2019, after which they had what she described as ‘non-consensual sex’ before having lunch the following day.

But the claims were fiercely contested from the public gallery by his family – at one point prompting the judge to clear the court.

Michael Hillier, of Sheffield, told the court that Fulstow had detailed the encounter to him in early 2022 and that they decided to ‘go down the vigilante route’ to ‘seek justice’.

Hillier waited outside Mr Smith’s house in Shevington, near Wigan, in a Mitsubishi Shogun on false number plates for nearly 10 hours. 

He lured him out of the house just before 7pm and blasted the dad-of-two in the face with a modified shotgun, before dousing his body in acid and soda crystals. 

Fulstow claimed in court that she knew nothing of the attack until Hillier arrived at her house – but the pair went on holiday and discussed the killing days later.

CCTV shows Michael Hillier outside Liam Smith's house near Wigan on the day of the killing

CCTV shows Michael Hillier outside Liam Smith’s house near Wigan on the day of the killing

Hillier shot Mr Smith in the face with a modified shotgun before dousing his body in acid and soda crystals and fleeing

Hillier shot Mr Smith in the face with a modified shotgun before dousing his body in acid and soda crystals and fleeing

Michael Hillier modified a shotgun that fired blanks in order to discharge live rounds

Michael Hillier modified a shotgun that fired blanks in order to discharge live rounds

Rachel Fulstow sought to claim that she knew nothing of the killing until Hillier came to her house - but the jury saw through her lies and convicted her of murder

Rachel Fulstow sought to claim that she knew nothing of the killing until Hillier came to her house – but the jury saw through her lies and convicted her of murder

Disturbing photos show Fulstow and Hillier smiling and laughing as they rode horses in the Caribbean Sea.

Sentencing the pair, Judge Maurice Greene said whatever happened on the night in 2019 appeared to be the underlying motive for the attack and described the murder as ‘brutal and cold-blooded’.

He said: ‘It was decided between you, you would exact your own vengeance.

‘The two of you decided to act as judge, jury and executioner.’

Addressing Fulstow, he added: ‘Whatever happened between you and Liam Smith can never be justification for what you and Michael Hillier did.’ 

Detective Chief Inspector Gina Brennand, of Greater Manchester Police, said Liam Smith’s name had been ‘besmirched’ and ‘tainted’ during the trial.

She said: ‘Liam was unable to defend himself throughout this process which made it even more heart-breaking for his family.

‘Whilst sat in court, neither defendant showed any signs of remorse, nor have they recognised the magnitude of what they’ve done and the impact on Liam’s family and ultimately his two boys.

‘I’m relieved that the jury were compelled by the prosecution case, seeing through their lies and deceit and ultimately leading to a very long prison sentence.’

Hillier will serve at least 33 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole. Fulstow, who was also convicted of perverting the course of justice, will serve at least 30 years. 

Post source: The List

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