Couple convicted of brutal murder and acid attack on Liam Smith
A couple have been convicted of murdering a man shot dead and doused in acid outside his home.
Michael Hillier, 39, fired the fatal shot that killed 38-year-old electrician Liam Smith, whilst Hillier’s partner Rachel Fulstow, 37, assisted in the organisation, preparation and execution of the attack and lied to police in order to hide her involvement.
On 24 November 2022 around 6.40pm, Mr Smith was shot in the face at close range by Hillier outside his home in Wigan.
Hillier had been parked in the area, waiting for Mr Smith all day in a Mitsubishi Shogun which was disguised on cloned registration plates and had tinted windows.
This was the second time he had travelled over to the Wigan area to hunt out Mr Smith, the first time being 2 November 2022.
Following the shooting, Hillier then poured acid onto Mr Smith’s face and body, followed by soda crystals.
Mr Smith was left for dead in the street with chemicals still reacting on him. His body was later found by a resident on his way home.
The investigation uncovered the preparation involved in Mr Smith’s murder. As early as May 2022, Fulstow carried out an internet search for an electrician in the Wigan area, utilising information she held about Liam Smith.
The prosecution case was that this was the first significant outward activity towards Mr Smith’s killing by Fulstow and Hillier.
In October 2022, more than a month before the murder, Fulstow searched the internet for LPS electrical, which was Mr Smith’s company.
Her phone also showed searches for Mitsubishi Shogun vehicles and how long it takes to burn a car completely.
Around 16 September 2022, Hillier came into possession of the Mitsubishi Shogun car and changed the number plates.
It was over three weeks later, on 24 November that Hillier travelled again from Sheffield where he lived to Wigan to kill Mr Smith.
He approached Mr Smith’s door, lured him into the street near the Mitsubishi vehicle and shot him in the head, before pouring acid and soda crystals onto his head and body.
Hillier then left the area and disposed of the car in an attempt to distance himself from the vehicle.
Recovered phone evidence showed that Fulstow made several internet searches in the days following the murder, firstly for information about the murder, then the meaning of the word ‘premeditated’ and ‘does acid corrode stainless steel’.
Hillier was arrested for murder in January 2022 and Fulstow in February 2022.
Fulstow was also charged with perverting the course of justice for lying when initially spoken to by the police, seeking to give Hillier an alibi and denying that she had carried out the internet searches.
Shortly before the start of the trial, Hillier pleaded guilty to manslaughter, accepting that he did cause the death of Liam Smith, but he maintained his not guilty plea to murder.
Following a six-week trial, Hillier and Fulstow were convicted of murder and Fulstow was convicted of perverting the course of justice.
Rebecca Macaulay-Addison, for CPS North West’s Complex Casework Unit, said: “Hillier and Fulstow planned the brutal murder of Liam Smith and attempted to cover their tracks at every stage.
“Far from being wracked with guilt following the murder, the pair flew to Jamaica on holiday for two weeks.
“The CPS worked with Greater Manchester Police to piece together the evidence including eye-witness testimony, CCTV, extensive mobile phone evidence and medical evidence to build a strong case to put before the jury. The jury agreed with the prosecution and found them both guilty of murder.
“I hope that Liam’s family and friends can find some comfort in knowing his killers have been brought to justice. My thoughts remain with them.”
Notes to editors
- Michael Hillier’s date of birth is 25/02/1984
- Rachel Fulstow’s date of birth is 24/01/1986