Mother, 21, killed as she sought a new life

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The Independent Online

A former model was stabbed to death by her gardener just hours before she was due to fly off to start a new life with her partner in the Caribbean, an inquest heard yesterday.

Beverley Payne, 21, fought desperately to fend off blows from a killer wielding a martial arts knife before she was stabbed through the heart while her children slept at the family home in south Wales.

The body of Nick Davies, 33, a former soldier who was working as a gardener for Ms Payne and her partner, was recovered later from the couple's Mercedes after he had driven it in to Swansea docks.

The inquest at Neath County Court heard that Davies had tied his hands to the steering wheel before driving into the water as the radio played classical music at full volume.

He had been staying at Ms Payne's house while her fiancé, Chris Davies, a businessman who is no relation to the gardener, had been arranging a new home for the family in the Dutch Antilles.

Ms Payne had been due to fly to the island of Curacao, off the coast of Venezuela, on the day of the murder on 11 July this year. She had planned to marry Mr Davies on a beach on the island.

Dr David Osborne, the Neath and Port Talbot coroner, was told that Ms Payne, an aerobics instructor, was found in a pool of blood and had suffered multiple cuts to her hands as she tried to defend herself.

Recording a verdict of unlawful killing, the coroner said Ms Payne had been killed by a stab wound to her heart. He added that he was not allowed under Home Office rules to name her killer.

But police who investigated the murder said there was no doubt Nick Davies was to blame.

Detective Chief Superintendent Wynne Phillips said: "There is not a shred of evidence at all that can connect any other person with the death of Beverley."

The inquest was told that neighbours of Ms Payne, who lived in a two-bedroom home in Bryncoch, Neath, had seen Davies spending so much time at the property that they assumed they were a couple.

Sarah Rees, who lived next door, said she had been woken at 6am on the day of the killing. She said: "I could hear her screaming and shouting ... I could hear doors banging and the thump of the stairs as someone went up and down.

"I woke up again at about 6.30am to the sound of the front door being slammed shut and a car being driven off."

Davies, who left a note at the house, had taken an overdose of pain killers before driving into the yachting marina at Swansea Docks.

Ms Payne's body was found when a family friend called round to find that her three-year-old son, Robert, had seen the body. Her 11-month-old daughter, Rebekah, was upstairs in a cot.

Peter Radcliff, an accountant, said: "I knocked at the door and a little boy answered and he said, 'I think mummy is dead'.

Despite suggestions that Davies may have killed Ms Payne in a jealous rage, there was no evidence of a sexual relationship between the two, the inquest heard.

An inquest into the death of Nick Davies will be heard today.