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.”

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup