Poppy Devey Waterhouse murder: Ex-boyfriend jailed for life after stabbing gifted mathematician 49 times in 'jealous' attack

‘I kept stroking my hands across the floor boards where she had been left screaming and dying,’ victim's mother said in emotional statement

Chiara Giordano
Saturday 13 April 2019 13:54 BST
Poppy Devey Waterhouse: DS Nicola Bryar gives statement after Joe Atkinson sentencing

A graduate who murdered his “prodigiously gifted” ex-girlfriend in a “jealousy-fuelled” attack with a kitchen knife has been jailed for life.

Joe Atkinson inflicted more than 100 injuries on Poppy Devey Waterhouse during “slow and brutal” attack after she broke off their three-year relationship, Leeds Crown Court heard.

The 25-year-old later then maintained that she had attacked him.

In the early hours of 14 December, the court head that he burst into the flat that the couple still shared in Leeds, the jury was told.

Using the kitchen knife he proceeded to inflict more than 100 injuries on the 24-year-old, The data analyst who hailed from the Somerset town of Frome, suffered 49 knife injuries and 23 separate stab wounds, all over her body.

The attack started in victim's bedroom, before moving into the hallway, where she is believed to have frantically attempted to escape through the front door, the court heard.

Ambulance staff found the “much loved” victim in a pool of her own blood, prosecutors said.

“Poppy Devey Waterhouse was a prodigiously talented mathematician, who was described as brilliant and beautiful who, at the age of 24, had her whole life ahead of her," said Jason Pitter, prosecuting. “It was a life cruelly taken away from her just before Christmas last year, because this defendant realised he was not going to be a part of this future.”

It also emerged that a month before the “savage and brutal” attack, Atkinson had punched Ms Devey Waterhouse’s new boyfriend.

Joe Atkinson, 25, has been jailed for life after stabbing his ex-girlfriend Poppy Devey Waterhouse to death at the flat they still shared in Leeds.

Ms Devey Waterhouse, who, like Atkinson, graduated with a first class maths degree from Nottingham University where the former couple met, had been due to move out of the flat just days later, the jury was told.

Atkinson rearranged the scene, placing a different knife next to her body, before calling his father and telling him: “We had had an argument and things would have been all right if she hadn’t attacked me.”

He maintained the story for months, initially pleading not guilty to murder before changing his plea on 5 April.

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He was sentenced to life in jail with a minimum of 15 years and 310 days.

In a victim impact statement that was read out in court, Ms Devey Waterhouse’s mother, Julie Devey, said: “As a parent, my basic duty is to make sure that I keep my children safe. I failed, and I have to carry that failure with me at all times, wherever I go, whoever I am with, whatever I am doing.”

She added: “I kept stroking my hands across the floor boards where she had been left screaming and dying. I just wanted to scoop her up and save her. I now live my life with a split-screen, on one half I can see the now, and on the other half that horrific scene.”

Ms Devey Waterhouse’s father, Rupert Waterhouse, told the court that his daughter and son were the two “greatest gifts” of his life.

“How can a picture of my daughter, smiling at me with her brown eyes, hurt me so deeply? This is my life sentence. Ours is a family of four minus one," he added. “They will have to invent a new maths, where four minus one will make four.”

Referencing both Atkinson and his sister, the victim's 22-year-old brother Zeb Waterhouse said: “Never before have I felt hate like this, but never before have I felt love like this.

“Never before have I felt guilt like this, guilt for not appreciating the amazing sister I had, or telling her that I love her, or seeing her as much as I should as we grew older and our lives took different paths.”

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