A teenager who murdered his girlfriend after she dumped him and tried to make her death look like suicide has been jailed for life.
Thomas Griffiths, now 18, stabbed Ellie Gould to death at her Wiltshire home before returning to school.
He immediately started attempts to cover up the murder on 3 May, sending messages to Ellie’s friends claiming he could not reach her and seeking support from a school matron.
Her father discovered her body in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor at their family home in Calne.
Griffiths had placed Ellie’s hand on the knife in her neck in an attempt to make the wound look self-inflicted.
Sentencing Griffiths to life with a minimum term of 12 and a half years on Friday, Mr Justice Garnham said: “The effect of your actions has not only been to snuff out the life of this bright, intelligent, talented and vivacious young woman with her whole life before her, but also to wreak misery and heartbreak on her family and friends.”
Bristol Crown Court heard that the pair had been in a relationship since January, but Ellie broke up with him the day before her death.
“In a message sent to friends on social media at 6pm, Ellie announced that she had split from this defendant and that he had not taken the separation well,” said prosector Richard Smith QC.
“Earlier that same day, Ellie had told her friends that she felt suffocated by Griffith’s attentions.”
Mr Smith said Griffiths was driven to school by his mother the following morning but had “no intention” of attending.
He took a bus home before driving to Ellie’s house, arriving there shortly before 11am and leaving under an hour later.
“Griffiths became angry, perhaps by Ellie’s continued rejection of him, and he attacked her,” Mr Smith said.
“A post-mortem examination indicated that Ellie was first incapacitated by pressure having been applied to her neck.
“Thereafter, multiple knife wounds were inflicted. There are at least 13 wounds inflicted, with the knife focused mainly around the area of the left neck.
“The knife that was used to kill Ellie was one that was taken from the family kitchen.”
Mr Smith said Griffiths had attempted to clean up the murder scene with cloths he later hid in a wood near his home.
Blood-staining on an apron suggests Griffiths wiped the knife before placing it back in Ellie’s neck.
At 11.45am, a text was sent from Ellie’s phone telling a friend that she was not going to school that day.
Griffiths drove home and told a neighbour he had self-harmed, with deep scratches to his neck that the court heard were most likely injuries inflicted by Ellie as she fought for her life.
At 3pm, Ellie’s father Matthew Gould returned home to find his daughter lying “face down in a pool of blood, with the knife in her neck”, Mr Smith said.
In a victim personal statement, Mr Gould said: “The image of Ellie lying there on the floor has haunted me ever since that afternoon.
“It fills my thoughts when trying to sleep and hijacks my mind when trying to go about my day.”
Griffiths was arrested outside a friend’s home at 6pm on the day of the murder, after a neighbour who saw him entering Ellie’s house provided a description to police.
He “lied repeatedly” to officers before eventually pleading guilty to murder in court.
Ellie’s mother, Carole Gould, told how she had welcomed Griffiths into their home and celebrated her daughter’s 17th birthday with him just months before the murder.
A defence lawyer read a letter from Griffiths, where he said: “I have truly let myself down and I hope one day I will be able to explain to myself and others why this happened.”
Sasha Wass QC said he was an exceptional student who had been made a prefect shortly before the murder, swam and played rugby competitively.
Detective Chief Inspector Jim Taylor, of Wiltshire Police, said there were “no warning signs or red flags” from Griffiths’ behaviour.
“His actions were truly unthinkable,” he added. “The injuries he inflicted on Ellie were horrific.
“Not only did he end her life in the cruellest way imaginable, he then attempted to cover his tracks.”
DCI Taylor said Ellie had wanted to focus on her education and, as an avid horse rider, had been considering joining the mounted police.
“She was an extremely popular, fun-loving, kind, and gentle girl,” he added.
“In murdering Ellie, Griffiths has destroyed the lives of those who were close to her, none more so than her parents and brother and sister.”
The headteacher of Hardenhuish School in Chippenham, where Ellie and Griffiths attended, described Ellie as a “talented, popular and much loved member of our school community who is dearly missed”.
Dan O’Neill, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said Ellie split up with Griffiths “because she felt suffocated by his attention and it is chilling to think that her concerns became reality”.
“He committed the worst crime against a person because he could not accept her decision to leave him,” he added.
“Our thoughts are with Ellie’s parents, brother and family who are still trying to understand how a young man they welcomed into their home was capable of taking the life of their beloved daughter.”
Additional reporting by PA