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Woman's head 'found in dark underground tunnel'

Tracey Woodford
Tracey Woodford

A man hid the severed head of a woman he had murdered in a dark and secluded underground tunnel, a court has heard.

Cardiff Crown Court heard Tracey Woodford was strangled by 50-year-old Christopher Nigel May just a few hours after meeting him for the first time in a local pub.

The 47-year-old's dismembered body was found in May's flat in Pontypridd - but was missing the head.

Prosecutor Roger Thomas QC said the body part was later retrieved 138 metres inside a storm drain close to Pontypridd RFC's stadium on Sardis Road.

He said: "As soon as police walked into the tunnel, the first thing they immediately noticed was that it was completely pitch black.

"The pipe opened up into an underground chamber where water was cascading down.

"An officer turned to his right ... and saw a human head laying down on its side on a ledge.

"One does have to consider what this involved: the defendant carrying a body part and a human head across Pontypridd into a dark tunnel, walking in for 138 metres.

"Most significantly, he removed the head from whatever it was being contained in.

"What was the purpose of displaying the head in that manner (on a ledge).

"He had ample time to do a number of things with the very least bury it or put it in the dense foliage.

"Why would a man behave in this way with a woman's head? It is a very strange thing to have done - to put a head in this location."

The court heard that May once worked as a butcher and was regarded by a former colleague as "very good" at using boning knives and removing ligaments as well as spinal columns from animal carcasses.

Mr Thomas added: "It seems that his experience in the butcher's shop had been put to use on a human body."

May, of Pontypridd, denies murder.

The court also heard that Ms Woodford's clothing had been torn and ripped - although the clasp of her bra remained fastened.

The Crown says semen was found in and over the deceased's body - with a DNA profile matching May.

Mr Thomas said it was impossible for scientists to say whether the defendant had ejaculated when Ms Woodford was alive or dead.

He added: "We submit it's extremely likely if not almost certain that occurred when she was dead.

"The marks of violence on the deceased are consistent with a struggle which resulted in death. That attack was caused by a thwarted sexual advance."

The court also heard that a used sanitary towel was later recovered from May's flat.

Mr Thomas added: "The suggestion that this woman consented to sexual intercourse is completely wrong."

Previously, the court heard that ginger-haired Ms Woodford was seen chatting with May at the Skinny Dog pub in Pontypridd on April 22 - with the pair seen leaving together after closing time.

In his opening remarks, Mr Thomas also spoke about how a few days before the killing the defendant tried to chat up a barmaid at the pub called Cerys Richards.

He said: "He was telling her how beautiful she was and that she was perfect.

"He said he loved redheads and that redheads were good in bed. He also asked if he could see her hands and nails."

The court heard Ms Richards initially "laughed off" it off at the time - but the prosecution has asked the jury to consider the significance of the remarks.

Following Ms Woodford's murder, jurors were told that the defendant had viewed porn online for more than two hours.

The Crown said it also "utterly rejected" May's claims he acted in self-defence and then, in a drunken panic, tried to hide Ms Woodford's body after strangling her.

Mr Thomas said: "This was a deliberate murder inflamed by sexual passion and it was a deliberate and callous act to dismember and conceal Tracey Woodford's body."