Sadie Hartley murder trial: Murder accused was 'psychotic and unhinged'

Sadie Hartley Image copyright Family of Sadie Hartley
Image caption Two women are accused of killing Sadie Hartley in January

A woman accused of murdering her love rival in "an orgy of violence" was "a bizarre character, psychotic and unhinged", a court has heard.

Sadie Hartley, 60, was stunned with a cattle prod and stabbed at her home in Rossendale, Lancashire, in January.

Sarah Williams, 35, and Katrina Walsh, 56, both from Chester, deny murdering the mother of two.

A jury heard Ms Williams was infatuated with Ian Johnston, 57, and referred to his partner Ms Hartley as "The Bitch".

Ms Williams shot the "decent, hard-working" businesswoman in the head with a stun gun before stabbing and slashing her 40 times in an "orgy of violence", Preston Crown Court heard.

The prosecution claims Ms Williams began plotting the murder 17 months earlier, when Mr Johnston broke off their relationship as she became "possessive and difficult".

Ms Williams met ski instructor Mr Johnston at Manchester's Chill Factore indoor ski slope, where she had learned the sport and went on to become an instructor herself.

Image caption Sadie Hartley was found dead in the hallway of her house in Rossendale

Giving evidence, Richard Savery said he was among a group including Ms Williams that would meet at the complex.

He recalled a conversation with the defendant and her then boyfriend, David Hardwick, a man aged in his 70s, when she allegedly made a threat to kill.

Ms Williams was "very protective" of a woman in the ski group who was apparently being emotionally abused by her partner, he said.

Mr Savery said: "Sarah had threatened to kill him, in front of me.

"David became slightly agitated and asked her not to say something like that because people believe it.

"He was really worried it would be carried through."

He said Ms Williams confided in him about her affair with Mr Johnston.

'Intense anger'

Mr Savery said he believed she was "infatuated" with him, while he told the police she was "a bizarre character", "unhinged" and "psychotic".

A month before the killing he attended a Christmas party at the Castle in the Air pub, next to Chill Factore, along with Ms Williams, Mr Johnston and Ms Hartley.

He said Ms Williams told him she had been speaking to Mr Johnston at the bar of the alpine-themed pub.

Mr Savery said: "She said 'Ian is going to get into big trouble talking to me and if she has a go at me I will smack her'."

The court later heard from Malcolm Evans, who told the jury he had been on group skiing holidays with Ms Williams and Mr Hardwick.

He was asked about one occasion when Ms Williams had a row with someone in their group, lost her temper and became "extremely angry".

Mr Evans said: "I saw that her demeanour was one of intense anger. The word that came to mind then, and now, is feral."

Horse-riding instructor Ms Walsh is alleged to have aided her friend's "murderous mission".

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