Sadie Hartley murder case: Accused killer's motive questioned

Sadie Hartley Image copyright Family of Sadie Hartley
Image caption Sadie Hartley was stabbed 40 times at her house on Sunny Bank Road in Helmshore

The alleged motive for a woman accused of murdering a love rival "does not stand up to scrutiny", a jury was told.

Sadie Hartley, 60, was stunned with a cattle prod and stabbed 40 times in Helmshore, Lancashire, on 14 January.

The prosecution claims Sarah Williams, 35, murdered her so she could have her partner, Ian Johnston, to herself.

But defence barrister Gordon Cole QC said it made no sense for her to cut off the "financial lifeline" provided by her long-time lover, David Hardwick.

Ms Williams of Treborth Road, Blacon, Chester and co-defendant Katrina Walsh, 56, of Hare Lane, Chester, deny murder.

Prosecutor John McDermott QC had said the pair were "cold-blooded murderers" who plotted to fulfil Ms Williams' desire to be with 57-year-old Mr Johnston.

'Sugar daddy'

But in his closing speech to jurors at Preston Crown Court, Mr Cole said there was "a price to pay" if Ms Williams was going to have "a permanent relationship" with Mr Johnston as it would mean losing the money Mr Hardwick provided.

Ms Williams began dating married father Mr Hardwick when she was 17 and he was 57, the court has heard.

Described in court as a "sugar daddy", the 75-year-old semi-retired businessman transferred £320 a week into Ms Williams' bank account, paid for up to 12 holidays a year for them, and gave her £75,000 towards buying a house.

"You may think, bearing in mind how long she has been in that relationship with David Hardwick, that this was not about cutting off that lifeline, this was about having a relationship that David Hardwick did not know about," Mr Cole said.

Image caption Sadie Hartley, a mother-of-two, was found dead in the hallway of her house in Rossendale in January

"We say the question of motive does not stand up to close scrutiny."

Ms Williams has told the jury she was ill in bed at the time of the killing and said the evidence pointed to her co-accused Ms Walsh, who did not give evidence at the trial.

'Uncontrolled butchery'

Horse riding instructor Ms Walsh, told police she thought she was participating in a game of the Channel 4 programme Hunted - in which teams of two try to go "off the grid" and avoid detection.

Tony Cross QC, defending Ms Walsh, described both defendants as "vile" but suggested his client did not think Ms Williams was capable of murder.

He told the jurors if they were not sure Ms Walsh was guilty of murder as an accomplice, then they must consider a verdict of manslaughter.

He said it was Ms Williams who had committed "uncontrolled butchery" on Ms Hartley, told police "brazen lies" and told the jury "absolute nonsense" and he "felt" for her lawyer".

"She is guilty of murder. There is absolutely no doubt of her guilt," Mr Cross said.

He said Ms Walsh had accompanied Ms Williams to buy the stun gun, had bought the knife, car and dark clothing used by her co-accused and took part in the "clean-up", destroying evidence afterwards.

But Mr Cross said if she believed Ms Williams was really going to murder Ms Hartley, she would not have helped police and told them about her diaries detailing her involvement.

The trial continues.

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