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
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Ed Miliband and David Cameron are neck and neck in the polls
election 2015Armando Iannucci: on how British politics is broken
Life and Style
Great minds like Einstein don't think alike
Missing: 'Mail' columnist Peter Hitchens
election 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power