Harrowing phone call captures brutal murder of mother-of-three as killer is jailed for life

Emily Sanderson’s violent death was recorded on a call to a taxi firm which was played to Sheffield Crown Court

Dave Higgens
Friday 06 October 2023 15:31 BST
Mark Nicholls murdered Emily Sanderson before hiding her body for 11 days
Mark Nicholls murdered Emily Sanderson before hiding her body for 11 days (South Yorkshire Police)

The final moments of a woman who was bludgeoned to death with a dumbbell have been played to a court after they were captured on a telephone call to a taxi firm.

Emily Sanderson, 50, was battered at least 13 times by postman Mark Nicholls who then wrapped up her body in his Sheffield home where it lay undiscovered for 11 days, a judge heard.

Jailing Nicholls for life on Friday, Judge Jeremy Richardson KC said it was a “ferociously violent attack on a defenceless woman” and added: “There was an unrelenting avalanche of violence visited upon her.”

Sheffield Crown Court was played a recording of the mother-of-three’s call to a cab firm which is interrupted by a muffled scream and Nicholls saying “robbing bitch” before a series of dull thuds are heard and the operator ends the call.

In a victim statement read out in court, Ms Sanderson’s mother, Christine Shann, said: “What we have experienced in the wake of this tragedy has done irreversible damage to all our lives. She was the heart of our family, and our heart has been ripped out.”

Nicholls, who admitted Ms Sanderson’s murder, showed little emotion as he sat in the dock listening to the recording with many of his victim’s family and friends in the packed courtroom looking on.

Some family members left court while the audio was played.

Sam Green KC, prosecuting, said Ms Sanderson worked as an escort and the defendant was one of her clients.

Mr Green said that the morning after the killing at his home in Crofton Avenue, in the Hillsborough area of Sheffield on the evening of May 19, Nicholls took an early train to Malton in North Yorkshire.

The prosecutor said the defendant was captured on CCTV drinking in pubs and a restaurant in the town with a female companion. Ms Sanderson’s family reported her missing on May 25 and her body was found after police broke into Nicholls’ house on May 30.

The defendant’s next door neighbour reported that he had seen Nicholls digging in the garden days before and Judge Richardson said he had no doubt the defendant had been planning to bury the body.

Ms Sanderson’s family reported her missing on May 25 and her body was found after police broke into Nicholls’ house on May 30
Ms Sanderson’s family reported her missing on May 25 and her body was found after police broke into Nicholls’ house on May 30 (PA)

Jamie Hill KC, defending, said Nicholls’ recollection of the incident is tainted by his consumption of alcohol and crack cocaine.

Ordering that Nicholls serve a minimum of 17 and a half years before he is considered for release, a visibly angry Judge Richardson said: “This was a truly wicked act.”

He said: “You perpetrated a brutal murder of a young woman. You repeatedly bludgeoned her with determined ferocity.”

The judge noted how the recording played to the court showed that Ms Sanderson was acting perfectly normally until the attack began. He said: “I do not accept that she acted in any way violently towards you.”

And he went on: “There’s no one ounce of justification or legitimate explanation for what you did.”

Mark Nicholls was captured on CCTV drinking in pubs and a restaurant in the town with a female companion a day after the killing
Mark Nicholls was captured on CCTV drinking in pubs and a restaurant in the town with a female companion a day after the killing (PA)

Nicholls, who sat in the dock with a security guard and wore a grey jacket over a white open-neck shirt, admitted murder at a previous hearing.

Detective Chief Inspector Andrea Bowell, from South Yorkshire Police, said: “Nicholls snatched away the life of a daughter, a sister and a mother in a fit of rage.

“He has since made considerable efforts to place the blame for her death on Emily herself. Within minutes of his appalling crime, he commenced a considered, thought-out and protracted plan to conceal her remains and escape prosecution.

“He has shown no real remorse for his truly horrific actions and the subsequent torture he has put her family through.”

South Yorkshire Police made a mandatory referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) at the time of the incident and this is ongoing, the force said.

Add article

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in