Defendant changes plea on jigsaw man's murder

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The Independent Online

A man on trial for murdering a colleague whose dismembered limbs were found scattered across two counties today changed his plea to guilty.

The jury at St Albans Crown Court were told that Stephen Marshall, 38, had now admitted murdering Jeffrey Howe. The plea change came at the end of the third week of his trial.

The severed remains of Mr Howe, 49, from Southgate, north London, were discovered across Hertfordshire and Leicestershire last year.

He became known as the "jigsaw man" after the series of macabre finds.

Marshall had previously admitted dismembering Mr Howe and disposing of his body parts across the two counties but denied murder.

He was on trail alongside his girlfriend Sarah Bush, 21, who still denies murdering and dismembering Mr Howe.

Marshall, of Ayot Path, Borehamwood, stood in the dock in a baggy grey shirt.

When the murder charge was put to him for a second time, he replied: "Guilty, my Lord."

During the trial, the court has heard he had moved into the flat of Mr Howe, who knew him through his work as a kitchen salesman.

Marshall refused to leave and planned to take over his colleague's identity after murdering him.

He was involved in what prosecutor Stuart Trimmer QC described as a "determined" plan to hide his disappearance while making use of his money and property.

Mr Trimmer has told the court Marshall and mother of two Bush, an escort from Pickard Close, Southgate, paid no rent to Mr Howe and stole his food.

Marshall then stabbed Mr Howe to death and dismembered him in his own home on March 8 or 9 last year.

The couple began to use his bank account as soon as they had killed him, Mr Trimmer said.

They sold his car, a Saab, on eBay and began spending his money on clothes, shoes, food and other goods.

Mr Howe's remains were discovered by members of the public between March 22 and April 11 last year.

His left leg, severed at the thigh, was found wrapped in blue plastic close to the roadside in Cottered, Hertfordshire, on March 22.

A week later his left forearm, severed above the wrist and below the elbow, was found by the side of the road in St Albans and two days after that, on March 31, the remains of his severed head were found in a field in Leicestershire.

The flesh of the scalp and face had been removed and the ears, tongue and parts of the neck had been cut away, the jury has been told.

Mr Howe's severed right leg was found just off the A10 near Puckeridge, Hertfordshire, on April 7, wrapped in rubber bags and sealed with tape.

Finally his torso was found in a green suitcase in a drainage ditch at Colliers End, Hertfordshire, on April 11.

Both of Mr Howe's hands are still missing.

At the start of the trial, Marshall pleaded guilty to two counts of perverting the course of justice, by giving false information about the well-being and whereabouts of Mr Howe when police were conducting a missing person investigation, and by dismembering his body and disposing of the parts in different places to impede the investigation.

He also pleaded guilty to intending to prevent a coroner from holding an inquest by disposing of the body in various locations across two counties.

Marshall had previously boasted of his ability to butcher a human corpse, a witness in the trial told the court

He told her he had cut up bodies for a criminal family in London, the "Adams" family, disposing of them in plastic bags and burying them, she said.

The woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, told the court Marshall said that at times bodies would appear and he was asked to take care of them.

He had told her that the first time he was asked to do this he felt distinct nausea so he started to take cocaine to deal with the effects and became addicted to the drug, she said.

The woman said Marshall told her he used a meat cleaver, large meat knives and sometimes even a chainsaw or a hacksaw.

She said: "He described how it would take a long time and be extremely laborious, take hours and hours to do.

"He would bury them, put them in plastic bags and bury them, separately in different places.

"He described burning them and he described distinctly the smell of burning human flesh and said it was something you could never forget.

"He compared it to the smell of burning pig flesh."

The woman also described how Mr Howe looked up to Marshall and that they seemed to be friends.

The court has heard the two men sometimes went drinking together, although they appeared to be very different characters.

Marshall had lived a "playboy lifestyle", paying thousands of pounds for prostitutes and taking large amounts of drugs, the jury heard.

Andrew Sangers, a friend of his since around 1996, told the court he knew Marshall had criminal connections and would go to watch bare-knuckle fights.

He would only buy drugs from "big players" because of the quantity he was buying, the court heard.

Mr Sangers told police Marshall was a "loveable bad guy".

He told the court: "He was a very popular man and a lot of people like him.

"All the people who worked for him, if they needed a favour or wanted something, would go to Steve, he used to help everybody and everybody liked him."

After Marshall changed his plea to guilty today, the jury of seven men and five women formally returned a guilty verdict.