Brierley Hill murders: How cold and calculating killer executed best friends to escape debt

A cold and calculating killer shot two business associates in order to write off debts of up to £400,000 but was tripped up by his web of lies, the lead detective in the case said today.

Jonathan Houseman.
Jonathan Houseman.

Jonathan Houseman callously executed best friends Will Henry and Brian McIntosh in a Range Rover after luring them to an industrial estate in Brierley Hill.

Houseman, 33, was found guilty of murder on Friday following a trial at Birmingham Crown Court.

Police arrived to find the two victims inside the bloodstained Range Rover and soon discovered this was no gangland hit over drugs or organised crime but all to escape a debt that was owed to the two men.

Detective Inspector Wes Martin said, while Mr Henry and Mr McIntosh were growing frustrated with Houseman for not paying what he owed, there was no evidence to suggest they had threatened him over the money or that he was driven to commit murder as there was no other option.

DI Martin told the Express & Star: "The level of greed is astounding really that somebody felt it was warranted to murder two people in order to write off debts. There were other avenues open to him."

Brian McIntosh and Will Henry. Photo: Facebook

The three men had worked together in the waste trade, working with skips and clearing sites of rubbish. Mr Henry, 31, and Mr McIntosh, 29, both fathers from Bartley Green, Birmingham, originally approached the killer about doing some work for him clearing a site in Halesowen. But Houseman fell behind with payments for the work and ended up owing, detectives believe, up to £400,000.

At some point, he settled on murder as a way of getting out of paying the debt.

It was far from a straightforward case for detectives, but through hours of dedicated work trawling CCTV and phone records they were able to back Houseman, himself a father, from Stourbridge, into a corner.

DI Wes Martin.

"Because of the nature of the CCTV trawl we completed and we were able to present to the court in a really structured way, just shortly before the trial Houseman had to accept it was him on the CCTV which was a significant win for us as the prosecution because he actually puts himself there and puts himself in the car," DI Martin said.

Houseman, of no fixed address, but previously of Quarry Park Road, Stourbridge, then invented a "ludicrous" tale about how there was a "fourth man" in the Range Rover who actually committed the murders and turned the gun on him, only for it to fail. This mysterious fourth man was never picked up on any CCTV cameras and detectives said this was because he didn't exist.

DI Martin said: "We were able to follow the victims (on CCTV) to show we didn't believe there was anyone else in that vehicle. We then watched continuous footage from the point of the shooting to the point the police officers get there which show no persons getting out of that vehicle.

Police at the scene in Brierley Hill

"His description of the fourth man and how he managed to get out of the Range Rover unseen, if I'm honest completely unbelievable and hopefully the jury saw through that. Personally I thought the suggestion there was a fourth person in the vehicle was ludicrous.

"I think he's someone who's a habitual liar and someone who has ripped off several people for lots and lots of money. To stand there and have the confidence, and the ego, to pass that off as true is unbelievable really."

The West Midlands Police detective admitted it was a shocking and unusual case because of the extraordinary lengths Houseman, who had no known links to serious criminality, was prepared to go to in order to escape his debts.

The killer was drowning in debt to several people but DI Martin said the murders were not an act of a desperate man because he was cold and calculated enough to meticulously plan the murders.

DI Martin said: "Jonathan Houseman is a really callous individual, he's very cold-hearted. I think his focus is always on himself and how how he can financially gain and that's been really evident throughout his testimony in court.

"I think he comes across as somebody who lives a very ostentatious lifestyle, lives well beyond his means and his whole life is a pack of cards. There was no financial stability, he was robbing Peter to pay Paul and not keeping up.

The men were killed in a car at Albion Works. Photo: SnapperSK

"And when he couldn't pay people back that's when he considered murder to be a viable option out of his problems.

"I think he was very cold and very calculating and he saw this as an opportunity to write £400,000 worth of debt off and potentially curry favour with other people he owed, who could have stood to gain by the death of Brian McIntosh and Will Henry so my view is he was just completely cold and callous around it.

"I think that shows in his planning and preparation, it's pre-meditated. We've got video footage of him covering his face and an address, we've got text messages between him and Avery which tend to suggest something's being planned. Those aren't the actions of men who are desperate, those are actions of men who really consider their position."

And that's where Richard Avery comes in.

The 33-year-old, of no fixed address, ran a car valeting business at the Merry Hill shopping centre and knew Houseman as he had an interest in buying and selling cars.

Richard Avery

Avery was said to be well known in the area and "connected" to some questionable characters. He was cleared of murder but found guilty of perverting the course of justice. His partner Francesca Scott was cleared of perverting the course of justice and walked out of court a free woman.

DI Martin admitted the case would stand out as one of the more unusual he has investigated because of the nature of the killings and the motive behind them.

"It was surprising. We'll always keep an open mind but it was shocking in the sense it happened in broad daylight, shocking the level of violence that was used by Houseman," he said.

"Those are experiences which never dilute really but we were able to thoroughly investigate every avenue, leaving no stone unturned around the forensics, the finances, the CCTV, enabling us to build a solid case against Houseman and Avery."

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