NewsCrime Desk

‘Bunny boiler’ who knifed love rival to death is jailed for life

Sadie Hartley
Sadie Hartley

A "bunny boiler" ex has been jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum of 30 years in jail for the gruesome stun gun murder of her love rival.

Sarah Williams, 35, shot businesswoman Sadie Hartley, 60, with a 500,000 volt stun gun as her unsuspecting victim answered the door to her home.

Then with "demonic savagery" used a kitchen knife to stab the semi-paralysed mother-of-two through the face and neck, inflicting more than 40 stab and slash wounds, before leaving her in a pool of blood in the hallway of her £500,000 home in Helmshore, Lancs.

Ms Hartley was home alone, while her partner Ian Johnston was away on a skiing trip in the Swiss Alps.

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

He had dumped "obsessive and jealous" Williams and begun a new life with Ms Hartley - but explicit photos and sex texts continued between the pair while Williams plotted the "perfect murder" for 18 months to kill her rival and win him back.

She was convicted of the murder on January 14 at Preston Crown Court, and ordered to serve a minimum term of 30 years before parole can be considered.

Her accomplice, horse riding instructor, Katrina Walsh, 56, who kept notes detailing the murder plot in her diary, was also jailed for life with a minimum term of 25 years.

Both women, both from Chester, had denied murder and blamed each other, during the seven-week trial.

Passing sentence Mr Justice Turner said the stun gun and stabbing of "loving mother" Ms Hartley meant she was "slaughtered like an animal" adding: "Neither of you have shown the slightest remorse."

He told the pair: "Let no-one believe this was a crime of passion. It was a crime of obsession, of arrogance and of barbarity, but above all a crime of pure evil."

Neither defendant made any reaction as they were jailed, while Ms Hartley's family sat in the public gallery in silence as sentence was passed.

The judge added: "Sadie Hartley died for your amusement. The contrast between her life affirming generosity of spirit and your vile, destructive, resentful and self-regarding hypocrisy could hardly be starker.

"The meandering and over-elaborate planning served to heighten your pleasure by deliciously postponing your ultimate and inevitable gratification.

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

"I am in no doubt that her murder was planned and rehearsed down to the finest detail."

Sarah Williams

He said the "unparalleled degree" of planning was "more closely redolent of a clinical assassination than a personal killing".

The judge continued: "The murder method you adopted involved not only taking a knife to the scene but invading your victim's home at night and slaughtering her like an animal by first incapacitating her with a massive electric shock to the head and then hacking and slashing her to death with almost unimaginable ferocity."

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

Ms Hartley's daughter Charlotte said that she was unable to explain "how much pain and horror" it had brought to her family.

She said that the last time she spoke to her mother was to tell her that she had got engaged while in Hawaii.

In a poignant victim impact statement read to the court through the prosecutor John McDermott, she said that her mother had been "so happy".

She said that she was unable to put the "heartbreaking thoughts to the back of my head".

"It is the most shocking and unforgettable news," she said.

"The two women who murdered my mum plotted for months to do these things and I don't know how a human being could do this to another human being.

"It's like living a nightmare. I will never be able to forget how frightened and scared my mum would have been that night in her own home where she is meant to be safe."

The statement added that Ms Hartley "did not have one bad bone in her body", describing her as "the most kind, loving, fun-caring woman".

She continued: "The loss of her has destroyed our lives, the years and family milestones that we all will miss out on are unthinkable.

"My mum will not see me get married and will never have the chance to meet my children. Thinking about this will haunt me for the rest of my life. The pain and torture of knowing I will never see speak to or touch my mum again breaks me."

Ms Hartley's son Harry in a victim impact statement said that no words "could even come close" to describe how he felt following his mother's murder.

He said: "She was taken in the cruellest possible way. These two monsters took one life and have destroyed countless more. They are utterly dangerous creatures and they are a danger to society.

"Not giving up is so incredibly hard, I'm so distant from the world yet I'm here. I wish my mum was. It makes no sense."

Harry, 25, said the family had got "some justice".

He added: "But it will never be enough. It will never bring mum back. For the family and friends, this will never end."

Former partner Mr Johnston, standing with his daughter, Hannah, 24, fought back tears before saying: "There can be no forgiveness for such vile behaviour."