Sadie Hartley killing: Women jailed for murdering love rival

Image source, Lancashire Police
Image caption,
Sarah Williams, left, and Katrina Walsh were both found guilty of murder following a seven-week trial

An obsessive "she devil" who murdered a love rival in a brutal attack she plotted with a friend has been jailed for a minimum of 30 years.

Sarah Williams, 35, stunned Sadie Hartley with a cattle prod and stabbed her 41 times in an "orgy of violence".

She attacked Ms Hartley, 60, at her home in Helmshore, Lancashire, in a bid to win back ex-lover Ian Johnston.

Williams and accomplice Katrina Walsh, 56, were both found guilty of murder and given life sentences.

Walsh was ordered to serve a minimum term of 25 years for her part in the killing, described by a judge as being "planned and rehearsed down to the finest detail".

'Game of death'

Jurors at Preston Crown Court deliberated for seven hours and nine minutes before returning a verdict at the end of the seven-week trial.

During the trial, prosecutor John McDermott QC described the duo as a self-styled "Batman and Robin but on the wrong side of the law".

Image source, Family of Sadie Hartley
Image caption,
Sadie Hartley was stabbed 41 times at her house on Sunny Bank Road in Helmshore
Image caption,
Mother-of-two Ms Hartley was found dead in the hallway of her house in Rossendale in January
Image source, Peter Byrne/PA
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Ian Johnston had been in a relationship with Ms Hartley since 2005

He said they plotted to fulfil Williams' desire to rekindle her relationship with 57-year-old Mr Johnston, which he had ended after she became "possessive and difficult", jurors heard.

After dumping "obsessive and jealous" Williams, Mr Johnston began a new life with Ms Hartley - but his ex-lover and her accomplice spent 18 months plotting the "perfect murder" to win him back.

Williams, who described herself as a "she devil" and "little psycho", had sent Ms Hartley a "spiteful" letter in June 2014, claiming she and Mr Johnston had enjoyed "unbelievably fantastic sex" behind her back, but it failed to end the couple's relationship.

The planning that followed was described in court as "the stuff of spy novels".

Media caption,
CCTV footage shows Katrina Walsh trying to hide the evidence
Image source, Lancashire Constabulary
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Police recovered the mud-covered stun gun
Image source, PA
Image caption,
Williams sent Ms Hartley a letter detailing an affair with Mr Johnston which she hoped would split them up

Williams and Walsh travelled to Germany to buy the stun gun last December and, exactly a week before Ms Hartley was murdered, Walsh delivered flowers to her door in a dry run for their plans.

Walsh, of Hare Lane, Chester, kept a diary as they hatched the plot, jurors were told.

'Clinical assassination'

After paralysing the "decent, hard-working" woman with the cattle prod, Williams, of Treborth Road, Blacon, Chester, stabbed the mother-of-two "in an orgy of violence" and with "demonic savagery", the court was told.

Walsh helped to hide evidence, including the knife and stun gun used in the attack, at a farm.

Sentencing the pair, Mr Justice Turner said Ms Hartley had been "slaughtered like an animal" in a manner "more closely redolent of a clinical assassination than a personal killing".

"Doubtless, the features of secret agent-style intrigue carried with them elements of fantasy but this was no harmless world of make-believe," he said.

"It was a game of death.

"Let no one believe this was a crime of passion. This was a crime of obsession, arrogance, barbarity and pure evil," he said.

He said though Williams wielded the gun and knife, Walsh was a "willing, sympathetic and energetic confederate right from the outset".

As the verdicts were delivered in court, Williams swallowed hard as the forewoman spoke, while Walsh gave a slight nod of her head.

Media caption,
Sadie Hartley's daughter Charlotte speaks about when she heard about her mother's murder

Ms Hartley's daughter, Charlotte, 23, wiped away tears as she sat in the public gallery next to Garry Hartley, her father and Ms Hartley's ex-husband, and her brother, Harry.

Mr Johnston, sitting a few rows behind them, had tears in his eyes and gave a slight nod as the verdicts came in.

He broke down once more as he read a statement after the hearing. He said: "No sentence imaginable could ever replace Sadie and everything she lived for.

"She was kind, loving, thoughtful, intelligent and the best friend anyone could have. The brutal, evil and cowardly attack perpetrated against this defenceless Sadie tore into our families, friends and communities.

"There can be no forgiveness for such vile behaviour."

Speaking after the verdict, Ms Hartley's son Harry said: "Her death has left a huge void and the last few months have been the hardest we could ever have imagined.

"Mum was a much-loved sister, aunt, friend to many. She was an inspiration to everyone around her - an adventurer who lit up the room. She was perfect."

He added that they "may have received some justice with a conviction, but it will never be enough to bring our Mum back".

The court heard how, on the day of her death, Ms Hartley was at home alone because Mr Johnston was away on a skiing trip in the Swiss Alps.

Williams, described as a "bunny boiler" and "kept woman" who was already in a relationship with a wealthy 75-year-old "sugar daddy" and having affairs with other men, had a brief fling with Mr Johnston.

Diaries of killer's accomplice

Image source, Lancashire Police

Katrina Walsh's diaries chronicled, as she put it, "the excitement of plotting the perfect murder".

In one entry, 17 months before the crime, she wrote: "Sarah came round so got caught up in endless murder plots for Ian's other half."

In June 2015, she continued: "Seriously talking of getting rid of her opponent ... she does seem to be a totally evil b****."

Two months later, she wrote: "Wow, I may get to be instrumental in helping remove the awful woman! This may happen. Wow! Am unexpectedly excited by it. Was buzzing so much I needed a Southern Comfort to wind down a bit."

In September 2015, she referred to thoughts of "a hit" on a motorcycle, and also wrote of using the flag of so-called Islamic State "to mislead the investigation".

Walsh noted she did not want to be involved at the "sharp end", adding: "I have no moral qualms, just a serious don't let us get caught twinge."

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