A teenager accused of murdering a 47-year-old mother-of-two was ‘vulnerable and open to exploitation’, his teachers told a jury.

Preston Crown Court heard from two of the defendant’s school teachers about their reactions to seeing the police appeal in relation to Lindsay Birbeck’s disappearance which showed CCTV footage of the defendant pulling a blue wheelie bin along Burnley Road.

Addressing the first teacher, David McLachlan QC asked him about his relationship with the defendant, whom he taught for around 18 months.

He told the jury: “He was fine, very quiet, pretty much non-verbal. I had a handful of conversations with him in the time I worked with him and usually his response would be to shrug his shoulders and say ‘I don’t know’.

“Even when you talked to him about things he liked, you would struggle to get a conversation out of him.

“Sometimes he would do his work sometimes he wouldn’t. Sometimes he would just say ‘no’ and would be adamant he wouldn’t do it.

“After getting to know him I knew there was no point in trying to push it if he said ‘no’.”

During cross-examination from defending barrister Mark Fenhalls QC, the teacher, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was asked whether the defendant was easily led, to which the teacher replied: “He could be quite easily led, if he was asked to take something somewhere he would and would not ask a lot of questions about it. I would see him follow somebody’s direction without question sometimes.

“In relation to the footage released by the police following Lindsay’s disappearance my initial thought was that someone had asked him to move the wheelie bin.”

Mr McLachlan questioned the second teacher her about her relationship with the defendant, his thoughts about money and his communication with others.

She said: “I never had any issues in school with him. He has never caused me any bother whatsoever.

“He never brought money into school. I don’t think money was of concern to him. If he needed anything his family would provide it. He’s not a person who would be motivated by money.

“He has never caused us any issue which is why it all came as a shock. My initial concerns were with his vulnerabilities and him being open to exploitation.

“He would be asked to do something and sometimes would do it without question.

“He had limited understanding of his emotions and his emotional wellbeing. His feelings and vocabulary were very limited and he has little insight into the connection between events and emotions.”

Mr McLachlan then asked the teacher whether she had ever seen a situation where the defendant had been exploited.

She said: “No, I never saw a situation where he was exploited.”

On Wednesday, the jury also heard about the discovery of Mrs Birbeck’s body in a shallow grave in Accrington cemetery and were told that vegetation used to conceal the grave had come from not only the woodland within the cemetery, but from an area close to The Coppice.

The teenager denies murder and manslaughter. The trial continues.