Policeman murdered fiancee just before wedding

A policeman who killed his police constable fiancee and then staged a car crash to make her death appear an accident was jailed for a minimum of 18 years today after he admitted her murder.

Martin Forshaw, 27, bludgeoned Claire Howarth, 31, to death with a hammer just hours before the couple were due to fly to the Caribbean to get married. He then drove her body to a remote country lane where he tried to cover up his crime.

Today, as his trial at Manchester Crown Court was due to begin, Forshaw pleaded guilty to murder. Sentencing him to life with a minimum term of 18 years, Mr Justice David Clarke said it was a “brutal killing”.

Forshaw, an officer with Cheshire police, and Ms Howarth, a PC at Greater Manchester Police, met in July 2007 and started their relationship in November of that year. They moved into a house together in Tottington, Bury. Ten months later they were engaged and were due to marry in St Lucia on 12 May 2009.

But, unbeknown to Ms Howarth, Forshaw was leading a double life. He was secretly having an affair with Lisa Charles, the mother of his four-year-old son. And, the week after he and Ms Howarth were due to marry, Forshaw was booked to go to Disneyworld with Ms Charles and their son.

In the early hours of Thursday 7 May, the day they were due to fly to the West Indies, Forshaw told Ms Howarth that he wanted to end their relationship.

An argument ensued during which Forshaw hit his fiance across the head with a lump hammer. He then carried Ms Howarth’s unconscious body downstairs and put her in the passenger seat of her BMW car.

He drove to a secluded spot between Bury and Bolton and carried his fiancee out of the car with the intention of seeking help, his barrister Peter Wright QC told the court. But realising Ms Howarth was dying, Forshaw took the hammer from the boot of the car and hit her two more times to “put her out of her pain”.

He then set about making it look like an innocent car crash. Forshaw put his dead fiancee’s body into the driver seat while he climbed into the passenger seat. Leaning across with his leg, he pressed on the accelerator and steered the car into a bush.

He called 999 and told the operator he had been involved in a 60mph car crash. He told police that Ms Howarth had been looking for a CD when she hit something in the road and skidded into the bushes.

But police and emergency services who attended the scene were immediately suspicious. Ms Forshaw’s injuries were not consistent with a car crash and the car had barely a scratch. And the air bag had not deployed, something which generally happens in all car collisions above 20mph.

Forshaw was arrested and told detectives that he had hit his wife in self defence, to stop her attacking him with the mallet. Pathologists said this was “totally implausible”.

The court was told that Forshaw was “torn” between his emotions for his fiancee and Ms Charles. Mr Justice Clarke said: “I have some understanding of the position of what you found yourself in. I believe you did not face up to the situation when you should have done.”

He told him that announcing the relationship was over “at a time of the highest emotions” has produced “the results we can all see.”

Following sentencing, Ms Howarth’s mother Irene said: “The heart ache is still very raw and painful for myself and my family to come to terms with Claire’s

horrific and meaningless death. Claire has left a great void in all of our lives and our family and her friends are so proud of all she achieved.

“We will never forget her wicked sense of humour, the compassion and courage she displayed in the police force along with the many happy memories of Claire’s all too short life. She remains in our hearts forever.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness