Knifeman killed girlfriend and baby

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The Independent Online

A man killed his girlfriend and their 10-month-old daughter in a "sustained and fearsome" knife attack before fleeing and leaving the couple's other young child locked in the house, a court heard today.

Anthony Marsh plunged the weapon into half-naked Stephanie Bellinger, 24, more than 30 times in the bedroom of their home in Totton, Hampshire, Winchester Crown Court heard.

Their daughter Lili Marsh was stabbed once through the head as she lay on the same bed.

But unemployed pub worker Marsh, 22, did not kill the couple's two and half-year-old son during the attack in February this year.

Marsh instead fled the house, locking the boy in for 30 hours until his worried grandmother, Elizabeth Bellinger, and Ms Bellinger's older sister, Ruth Goody, broke into the house and were confronted by the "truly distressing scene" that was "gruesome to behold".

Christopher Parker QC, prosecuting, told the jury that the pair found their relative naked from the waist down on the bed with her night shirt pulled up over her body. Marsh had also thrust the knife into his girlfriend's mouth and left it there.

He denies murder, but admits the killings on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Marsh was arrested a few days later in nearby Fareham and told police in interview he heard voices telling him to kill Ms Bellinger as they lay in bed together.

He said he went downstairs, got a kitchen knife and attacked his asleep partner by plunging the knife into her neck after counting to 50 several times and he repeatedly stabbed her as she screamed.

He then said he tried to suffocate Lili, because the voices told him to, with the duvet and by standing on her but she was still breathing. He said he could not remember stabbing her.

He told officers he then took a shower and cuddled receptionist Ms Bellinger and the voices told him to kill his other child but he was able to resist them.

Mr Parker told the jury that Marsh had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder after taking a large amount of drugs in his teenage years but he had never mentioned hearing voices to doctors.

He also regularly fled the family home and went to other towns before handing himself in to hospital A&E departments after sleeping rough.

But Mr Parker told the jury that the diagnosis was a "convenient label for his behaviour".

"(It was) precious little more than his persistent avoidance of family and personal responsibilities," the barrister said.

The couple had met in 2006 and Ms Bellinger had been worried and supportive of Marsh and outwardly they seemed a happy couple, the jury was told.

But they were £13,000 in debt in part, because Marsh had lost his job as an assistant manager at a pub when he stole £2,000 from the safe, the court heard.

Mr Parker said: "He said in the week of the killings he had wished he didn't have to worry about Stephanie. He said voices had been telling him he should kill Stephanie."

But the barrister said it was not a mercy killing but one that had sexual elements to it.

The jury was shown distressing images of the scene and Mr Parker told them the body of Ms Bellinger had been "left as if she was a victim of a sexual assault" and it was "indicative of a sexual type of killing and not consistent with a mercy killing".

Mr Parker explained that a book entitled How To Lose A Husband And Gain A Life was placed on the bed after the killing and Ms Bellinger's ring had been taken off before she was killed and was found in the bathroom of the house.

"Something within the relationship had changed despite Stephanie's long standing concern for his well being," the barrister told the court.

"The scene showed powerful elements of sexual motivation and revenge."

The fact something had changed was apparent, Mr Parker told the jury, because Marsh had never been violent towards his wife or anyone.

"Something within the relationship has caused him to snap," he said.

The barrister told the jury: "He has admitted, and does accept, that he did kill them both. But it is contended on his behalf that he is guilty, not of murder, but manslaughter as at the time he killed Stephanie and Lili he was suffering from a mental abnormality and it was that substantially impaired his responsibility for these unlawful killings."

Mr Parker said that Marsh did have an abnormality of mind at the time of the killings but it was "simple part of his personality. It did not arise from disease."

He told the jury that one expert witnesses would give evidence suggesting that Marsh was psychotic but another disagreed.

The trial is expected to last two weeks.