Man jailed for life for murdering partner

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The Independent Online

A boyfriend who slit his partner's throat after being freed on bail for an earlier attack was jailed for life today.

Stephen Newton, 38, inflicted an eight-inch wound after first strangling Nicola Morrin, 26, with a pair of her baby's tights in July last year.

As she bled to death on the living room floor, he confessed what he had done in a phone call to his sister, who called 999.

When police burst into the blood-soaked flat they found him watching TV, feet from his victim's body. Miss Morrin's one-year-old daughter was asleep in the bedroom.

Newton, of Kirkston Avenue, Lemington, Newcastle, had admitted manslaughter on the grounds of provocation but denied murder.

But earlier today the jury took around five hours to find Newton guilty of murder following a three-week trial at Newcastle Crown Court.

Burly Newton, 6ft 4in tall and weighing 17 stone, showed no emotion as the jury foreman returned the guilty verdict.

There were gasps from a packed public gallery and members of Miss Morrin's family ran out of court to break the news to waiting friends outside.

Jailing Newton for life with a minimum term of 15 years, Judge John Milford QC said: "You attacked her, you struck her about the head repeatedly, you strangled her with her child's tights and while she was unconscious you repeatedly cut her throat.

"She was 10 years younger than you and she was physically no match for you. Her daughter slept nearby.

"It was a troubled relationship punctuated by violence. It was obvious to all around that that the relationship was doomed.

"You couldn't live happily together but you couldn't live apart."

The judge said he could not accept Newton's version of events that he snapped after Miss Morrin blurted out he was not the father of her daughter - saying he already knew.

"I have read a note from you today which you express your remorse. I saw nothing of that in the days you spent in the witness box during your trial."

Earlier before sentencing Judge Milford said Miss Morrin's baby daughter was going to have to come to terms with her mother's violent death.

"The deceased's daughter is going to live for the rest of her life with the knowledge that her mother was murdered within yards of her," he said.

The court was told the attack was the culmination of an abusive seven-year relationship.

At the time, the sales rep was on bail over an attack he is alleged to have made two weeks earlier on Miss Morrin. It was a condition of his bail that he should not visit her flat in Bramwell Court, Gosforth, Newcastle.

Prosecutor Toby Hedworth QC said: "Just after 1am on Wednesday July 2 last year, this defendant's sister made a 999 call to the emergency services. She told them that he had killed his partner and had tried to kill himself.

"When the emergency services arrived, they found Miss Morrin dead on the living room floor.

"Sat on the sofa watching the TV was this defendant, Stephen Newton. Miss Morrin's one-year-old daughter was in her cot in the next room asleep.

"This, say the Crown, was the culmination of a seven year abusive relationship with Miss Morrin.

"The defendant should not have even been at that flat as it was a condition of his bail which he had been granted in respect of another attack on her two weeks earlier that he did not visit there."

Mr Hedworth said Newton regularly attacked Miss Morrin after they began seeing each other in 2000 and had two convictions of assault occasioning actual bodily harm recorded against her.

In 2003 he had threatened to kill her and in June 2005 while on holiday in Corfu he pushed her off a ledge, causing extensive injuries.

For that he was convicted in his absence of attempted murder by a Greek court.

After one break-up, Miss Morrin began seeing another man and became pregnant. But this relationship foundered and after the birth of her baby, Miss Morrin resumed her relationship with Newton.

Giving evidence during the trial, Newton said he killed her after "exploding" when she confessed her baby was not his.

"Nicola turned round and said 'she's not yours, it's not my fault, it's your fault as you are not able to make kids you big mug'," he said.

"That was the first time I had heard that from Nicola's mouth, I just exploded.

"I just grabbed hold of her by the arms and put her on the floor."

Newton then claimed Miss Morrin had reached for a Stanley knife and tried to attack him with it.

He said he overpowered her and the next thing he remembers was that Miss Morrin was dead.

Newton said he then cut his wrists and throat and lay in a bath of hot water in an attempt to kill himself.

He then got out of the bath and contacted his sister saying he had killed Miss Morrin.

Newton sent a text message to his sister Kerry, saying "I soz Kez but couldn't let her get away with hurting yous, ok."

Two further, unsent messages, to Kerry and his other sister, Tracey, said "told yous she was not walking away this time" and "love you Trace but enough enough, eh?"

He then phoned Tracey at 12.40am, telling her to come to the flat, then hanging up. When she rang back, he said "I've killed her" and hung up again. In a further phone call, he said "I've been trying to kill myself but I can't die".

Miss Morrin suffered wounds to her neck and arms, including an eight-inch cut the full width of her throat, which was more than two inches wide in places and had been inflicted with six or seven separate strikes.

She had also been asphyxiated, with the small pair of white tights, which belonged to her daughter.

Bruising to her face and head suggested she had been punched, kicked or stamped on.