Love rival shot woman with stun gun before 'demonic' knifing, court hears
A jealous and obsessive woman paralysed her love-rival with a stun gun before stabbing and slashing her victim with "demonic savagery", a murder trial heard.
Sarah Williams, 35, shot "decent, hard-working" businesswoman Sadie Hartley, 60, in the head with the weapon on the doorstep of her £500,000 home in the village of Helmshore, Lancashire, UK.
Williams then stabbed and slashed the mother of two 40 times in an "orgy of violence", Preston Crown Court heard.
The defendant, who denies murder, had been in a past relationship with Ian Johnston, 57, Ms Hartley's partner, who was out of the country at the time of the attack.
He had ended the relationship with Williams after she became "possessive and difficult" John McDermott, opening the case for the prosecution, told the jury.
"Obsessed" Williams "set her mind" to rekindle the relationship - but Ms Hartley, who owned a medical communications business, was the "obstacle".
She recruited a second defendant, Katrina Walsh, 56, also from Chester, to help her with the "murderous mission" and who kept a "revealing" diary as they hatched the plot, the court heard.
At just after 8pm on January 14 this year, Ms Hartley received an unexpected knock at the door to her home, on an upmarket road in the rural Lancashire village.
"What happened next is truly shocking," Mr McDermott continued.
"Sarah Williams stood on the doorstep. As soon as the door was opened we suggest she lunged at Sadie Hartley with of all things a stun gun - the sort of thing you might use legitimately to prod cattle.
"She pressed it against her - Sadie Hartley's head - and incapacitated her.
"Then with what can only be described as almost demonic savagery, she attacked her with a knife.
"She stabbed and slashed at this unfortunate woman; blow after blow, causing appalling and fatal injuries.
"She left her victim in a pool of blood in the hallway; closed the door; walked back to the car she had used on her murderous mission and set off back to her home in Cheshire.
"It was a premeditated, planned assassination of an innocent woman."
Williams, from Treborth Road, Chester, and Walsh, of Hare Lane, Chester, both deny murder.
Mr McDermott QC said Walsh kept "a remarkable, compelling record" of the "murderous aim" of her "good friend" Williams.
A September 2014 diary entry read: "Sarah came round so got caught up in endless murder plots for Ian's other half", while a June 2015 entry said: "We're also seriously talking of getting rid of her opponent. I agree is probably a good play ... she does seem to be a totally evil bitch."
The prosecutor told the jury: "Nothing could be further from the truth. Sadie Hartley was a decent, hard-working and much-loved guiltless woman. But in the skewed minds of these defendants, she had become the enemy and she had to go."
In August 2015 there was "a sinister development", said Mr McDermott, when Williams attempted to recruit Walsh's ex-husband, Kevin Walsh, to her cause and use his "skill set".
Detailing the contact in her diary, Walsh said: "Wow, I may get to be instrumental in helping remove the awful woman! This may happen. Wow! Am unexpectedly excited by it. Was so buzzing so much I needed a Southern Comfort to wind down a bit."
Walsh texted her ex-husband to arrange a meeting but he later pulled out when he realised Williams was using an untraceable mobile phone, the court heard.
Walsh went on to write: "Plan B will be needed ... I have no moral qualms, just a serious don't let us get caught twinge."
In September 2015, Walsh refers in her diary to thoughts of "a hit" on a motorcycle.
The entry read: "Fortunately Sarah's had an idea that would spare me the anxiety as she things (sic) of just riding on a motorcycle, killing and leaving said floosie and riding off.
"I just have to clandestinely train Sarah to ride a bike and store said bike."
She also wrote of using an Isis flag "to mislead the investigation too, I'm much more into that."
Neither defendant appeared to know around that time where Ms Hartley and Mr Johnston lived, the court heard, however the couple had moved in together in Sunnybank Road, Helmshore, in November 2014.
The pair bought a tracking device which was later fixed to Johnston's car so he could be followed online, said the prosecutor, but were almost certainly unaware that the selling company also kept a log of where the tracker goes.
Williams went on a number of reconnaissance missions to his address to make sure she had the right house and organised a "sinister" test run exactly one week before the murder.
Mr McDermott said: "It involved both women travelling to the address, going to the local Tesco to buy some flowers - of all things - and then delivering them on the doorstep to the great surprise of Sadie Hartley.
"It was almost the stuff of spy novels.
"It was Katrina Walsh who actually went to the door and knocked with the flowers. She knew the deceased's name, she wore a cap and, having delivered the flowers to Sadie Hartley, she left as quickly as she had come.
"Meanwhile, Katrina Walsh was to tell the police that Sarah Williams skulked nearby out of sight - probably in a bush - watching her prey at the very door which she would approach one week later."
The Crown said Walsh used cash to buy the car that Williams drove on the night, used her Tesco club card to purchase the large kitchen knife used in the killing and, like her co-defendant, had used a throwaway "burner" phone.
In December 2014 the pair took a ferry from Hull to Rotterdam and then travelled to Darmstadt in Germany, where they bought the stun gun.
In her diary, Walsh wrote: "I said no matter what her way of testing the bitch, then she could do with that zapper or she risks being injured herself.
"So will get a trip to Germany out of this. Took ages to wind down, all the excitement of plotting the perfect murder!"
Mr McDermott said Walsh did not join in the action on the night of the murder but she was "far from a shrinking violent" as she cleared up and disposed of the evidence.
He said she waited at Williams's home on January 14 for the call to say "mission accomplished" and to collect her from a pre-arranged dumping ground for the murder car and to effect the clean-up.
He said: "Unfortunately for both of the defendants, most of the murder kit was found after Katrina Walsh's arrest. She took the police to the hiding places where the various items were stashed."
Explaining her actions, Walsh went on to tell police that she "largely thought" she was taking part in a game of the Channel 4 programme Hunted.
Aired in September 2015, the jury was told that Hunted involved a challenge to various individuals and teams to evade detection from military-style trackers and people with state-of-the-art surveillance and intelligence apparatus.
Mr McDermott told the jurors it was a matter for them as to whether Walsh was "really that stupid".
Despite believing they were carrying out the "perfect murder", police were also able to track and trace the defendants' movements via mobile phones and car number plate monitoring, and also caught them on camera.
On the night of the murder, Williams was allegedly caught on CCTV arriving 40 yards from her victim's home, going to the house and returning back on camera four minutes, 40 seconds later.
Mr McDermott said walking to the house, knocking on the door, using the stun gun and inflicting 40 knife strokes in such a short space of time showed this was a "no-hesitation, determined and swiftly executed murder".
The jury heard that Ms Hartley accompanied Mr Johnston to a Christmas party on December 2 last year at the Chill Factore, an indoor ski-slope in Manchester, where Williams worked and Mr Johnston practised skiing.
During the event, Williams left the party and put another tracker on Mr Johnston's Subaru car parked outside.
Two weeks later, after the device's battery ran out, at night she drove to the home he shared with Ms Hartley, took the tracker off and drove home to re-charge it.
She then returned the following evening at around midnight to put it back on his car.