Partner convicted of Facebook murder

Gareth Llewellyn,Press Association
Thursday 10 September 2009 16:56 BST

A man was convicted today of murdering his partner less than a fortnight after she changed her status to single on Facebook.

Brian Lewis first stabbed and then strangled Hayley Jones to death at the home they shared with their four children.

The 31-year-old from Pritchard Terrace, Phillipstown, New Tredegar, south Wales, then fled the scene during the early hours of March 12 of this year and drove to a police station, leaving his children to find their mother's body in the living room.

Cardiff Crown Court heard the couple's relationship had been under strain due to financial pressures after the defendant was made redundant. They also bickered over the amount of time Ms Jones had taken to spending on the Facebook website.

Lewis had claimed he had been trimming his finger nails with a kitchen knife when he tried to "touch" his 26-year-old partner's sleeping bag with the tip of the blade out of frustration following a row.

The knife pierced two sleeping bags and went through three layers of clothing Ms Jones had been wearing while trying to sleep on a settee before her ribcage prevented it from penetrating any further.

He said he later found himself with his hands around Ms Jones's throat and only came to and released his grip when he heard one of his sons calling out from upstairs.

After just three hours of deliberation, the jury of eight women and four men rejected this explanation and returned a unanimous guilty verdict.

Lewis showed no emotion as the verdict was read out although there were shouts of "Yes!" and "Get in there!" from the public gallery.

After calling for quiet, Judge Roderick Evans sentenced Lewis to life imprisonment and ordered that he serve a minimum tariff of 14 years, less the time spent in custody on remand.

During the trial the jury heard the couple had been together for 13 years and regarded themselves as husband and wife.

However, due to financial pressures after the defendant lost his job working on the railways in 2007, cracks had begun to appear in the relationship.

On March 2 of this year, Ms Jones went as far as changing her relationship status to single following a row over the disciplining of one of their sons.

The court has previously heard a post-mortem examination found Ms Jones died of strangulation. Most significant, said prosecutor Mark Evans QC during his opening, was a stabbing injury she received to her chest before she died.

The prosecutor said although this proved to be non-fatal, by penetrating two sleeping bags and three layers of clothing she was wearing while trying to sleep on the living room settee, it illustrated she had not been on her feet fighting the defendant at that time.

After taking to the witness box to give evidence, Lewis told the jury he did have an issue with the amount of time Ms Jones was spending on a laptop computer he bought for her in February of this year.

He said she would sometimes come home at 8am after working a 12 hour shift at a care home and stay up for "three to four hours" browsing the site before going to bed. He said her free evenings were also spent on the computer.

"I would be trying to send the kids to bed and she would be on it," he said. "You would try to talk to her and she would just ignore you. There were arguments."

He added: "I didn't have an issue with her using it (the laptop), it was just when normal life was disrupted."

He said Ms Jones was quite open about her activity on the computer at first but gradually became more secretive and would close the lid on the laptop whenever he came near.

When his barrister, Peter Murphy QC, asked how relations were between him and his partner by the end of February, Lewis replied: "They were all right but there were petty arguments about the computer usage.

"We were together and doing things but you could see the usage and problems in the house were just building up slowly."

Mr Evans said the couple's four children, Jordan, Cory, Kian and Tia, are now in the care of their grandmother, Sally Williams.

He said their former family home is also likely to be repossessed imminently after being preserved as a crime scene by Gwent Police until recently.

In mitigation, Mr Murphy said: "Whatever he may have done, he too has lost everything. I don't say that as an excuse or that it can ever be compared with the loss the family of Ms Jones have experienced, but it is true."

He added: "His children are effectively lost to him. I know through my dealings with him that this almost has been a bigger burden to him as the loss he has caused them."

Mr Justice Evans said the defendant launched a "murderous attack" on his partner on the night in question.

He said two aggravating features in the incident were the use of a knife and the attack taking place within earshot of his children.

"Quite how much they (the children) saw or heard is difficult to tell but I have no doubt that part of this incident occurred when they were observing it or hearing it," said the judge.

"There are mitigating factors. I bear in mind you are of good character. I accept it was not pre-planned but I'm satisfied there was no provocation.

"This arose because you were frustrated, angry and upset but not because of what she said or did to you."

After the case the victim's mother, Sally Williams, released a statement which said: "The murder conviction and sentence of Brian Lewis today can never replace the loss of my beautiful daughter Hayley Jones.

"She was a devoted mother to her four children, Jordan, Cory, Kian and Tia. She recently started work to try and improve the life of her and her family."

She said that as her daughter lay asleep, she was "cowardly attacked by the accused and left for dead" who then left their children to "see all the destruction he had left behind".

She added: "Her days of seeing her children growing up and possibly becoming a grandmother were cruelly taken from her on March 12 of this year.

"Although Hayley you are no longer with us in this life, you are always in our thoughts and you will always live on through your children. God bless."

Outside court, Detective Chief Inspector Russ Tiley of Gwent Police said: "We are satisfied with the decision of the court. It was a tragic event that had taken place and our thoughts are with the family and friends of Hayley.

"The children and family were brave throughout this process and hopefully the verdict that has been reached will now give them some closure."

He added: "I would also like to thank the officers of the major investigation team for the thoroughness of the inquiry they have taken."

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