Man given life term for murdering girlfriend

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A man was beginning a life sentence today after his turbulent relationship with his girlfriend ended in murder.

During a drunken late-night row, Kieran Walmsley hit Janet Edwards in the face before brutally stamping on her stomach.

He then put his girlfriend to bed and left her to die from massive internal injuries.

Walmsley, 33, pleaded guilty to the murder of Miss Edwards, 35, - his partner of more than a decade - at their home in Albion Row, Byker, Newcastle, last year.

Prosecutor Peter Gair told Newcastle Crown Court that Miss Edwards had suffered regular domestic violence at the hands of Walmsley during their relationship.

"The next-door neighbour describes the couple having arguments quite often," he told the court.

"They would shout at each other most nights and to be fair to the defendant, the female would 'give as good as she got'."

Mr Gair said that Miss Edwards would often be seen by neighbours and friends with bruises to her arms or her face but would make excuses and say they were inflicted accidentally.

"It is the Crown's case there has been domestic violence," Mr Gair said.

The prosecutor said that Walmsley carried out the fatal attack on his girlfriend on the night of August 17.

A neighbour returning home to his flat after a night out described hearing shouting at about 11pm, and by 11.35pm it had gone quiet.

Miss Edwards's body was found in bed on the afternoon of August 17 by a family friend, who alerted the emergency services.

"The defendant told him he'd had a fight the night before and had head-butted Miss Edwards in the face and she'd accidentally hit her head on an ashtray," Mr Gair said.

After the police arrived, Walmsley was arrested.

Walmsley told police they were lying on the sofa and he had suffered a fit. He said that when he came round he was lying on top of Miss Edwards.

She then said she had wet herself and so he helped her to the bathroom, where she fell over and banged her head. He then put her to bed.

A post-mortem examination revealed 68 separate injuries to Miss Edwards, including a fractured nose, fractured rib and a ruptured liver.

She had died from internal abdominal bleeding caused by being stamped, jumped on or kicked by Walmsley.

"It is Dr Hamilton's opinion that the defendant either jumped, kicked or stamped on Miss Edwards while she was lying on the floor in the lounge of the property," Mr Gair said.

The court heard the couple, who were originally from Preston, Lancashire, both suffered from learning difficulties and drank heavily.

They had been together for 11 years and moved to Newcastle in 2000.

In a moving victim statement, Miss Edwards's mother Patricia Barton told how the sight of her daughter lying in a mortuary will remain with her forever.

"I am unable to forget the number of injuries she sustained and how alone and frightened she must have felt," she said.

"I only wish Janet had spoken up about what was happening to her and asked for help earlier."

Paul Sloan QC, defending, said the defendant was truly remorseful for what he had done and would have to live with it for the rest of his life.

"She was by far the most important person in the defendant's life and he will always have to live with the knowledge that he alone was responsible for the death of a person he loved above anyone," Mr Sloan said.

Judge David Hodson, The Recorder of Newcastle, said no sentence he imposed could ever compensate Miss Edwards's family for her loss.

"One only needs to read the statement of Janet Edwards's mother to be acutely conscious of the grievous loss she and her family have to bear," the judge said.

"The attack you mounted upon Janet was sustained, brutal and savage."

Judge Hodson imposed a life sentence and said Walmsley must serve 13 years before he could be considered for parole.

"That does not mean you will be automatically released after you have served that minimum term, it will be for the parole board to decide," he said.

"It may well be the case because of your extreme difficulties in controlling your anger your release date may be well beyond the expiry of the minimum term I have to set."