Four men on murder charges following ‘back of van’ death are remanded in custody

FOUR men from villages in the Saffron Walden area who were charged with the murder of a man found dying in the back of a van have been remanded in custody.

Tom Johnston, 24, Ben Johnston, 26, Robert Johnston, 56, all from Pampisford, and Shaun Matthews, 54, from Whittlesford, were charged on Friday evening after the death of 33-year-old Shaleem Amar.

They all appeared via videolink before Judge Zoe Smith at Reading Crown Court on Tuesday.

All four men are due back in court on March 1 to enter pleas.

A provisional trial has been set for next May with the proceedings expected to last between four to six weeks.

Police in Berkshire discovered Mr Amar, of Hancocks Mount, Sunningdale, in the back of a van after it was stopped on the A30 on Wednesday November 17.

Formal identification of his body took place and a post-mortem examination carried out on Thursday showed that he died of head injuries.

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The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) also launched an investigation into the incident after it was revealed that there was a 37-minute gap between officers stopping the van and them finding Mr Amar.

IPCC Commissioner for the south east, Mike Franklin, said: “It took 37 minutes from the point that the van was stopped, until officers discovered the injured man.

“At first glance, this seems like a long time.

“However, based on what was known to police at that time, I am satisfied that there was no reason why officers should have suspected anybody was injured in the back of the van.”

Mr Amar had three children, an eight-year-old boy, and two girls, aged seven and three.