Outrage at jail sentence for millionaire who claimed girlfriend died during 'rough sex'

John Broadhurst said more than 40 injuries sustained by Natalie Connolly were part of consensual activity 

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 18 December 2018 17:38 GMT
John Broadhurst arrives at Birmingham Crown Court

Anger is mounting over the “outrageous” prison sentence handed to a millionaire who claimed his girlfriend died accidentally after “rough sex”.

John Broadhurst’s punishment could be reviewed by the attorney general after an MP added her voice to those saying it did not fit the crime.

Broadhurst was sentenced to three years and eight months' imprisonment over the death of Natalie Connolly, whose body was found with horrific wounds at his home near Stourbridge.

Birmingham Crown Court heard the 26-year-old mother had suffered 40 separate injuries, including serious internal trauma, a fractured eye socket and facial wounds, and was bleeding heavily.

Opening the trial, prosecutors told the jury that “whatever may have started willingly, there is no way that Natalie either consented to or was able to consent to what John Broadhurst did to her after that, leading to her untimely, unseemly and tragic death”.

Ms Connolly’s family called the property developer a “callous, disrespectful person” as members of the public voiced anger at the sentence.

Nimco Ali, co-founder of the Daughters of Eve charity, called the jail term “outrageous”, adding: “Women are not objects for men’s sick fantasies and this sentence is a joke.”

Lord McConnell, a Labour peer, wrote on Twitter: “Very hard to avoid the conclusion that his sentence would have been much more harsh if he was not so rich.”

The Labour MP Harriet Harman, who served as solicitor general, called for the sentence to be formally reviewed and has asked the CPS why they did not proceed with a murder charge.

She said she was “horrified” by the judge’s sentencing remarks, adding: “Who gave evidence of this ‘happy relationship?’ The offender? Not the victim, obviously, as he’d killed her.”

Natalie Connolly, a 26-year-old mother, suffered more than 40 injuries
Natalie Connolly, a 26-year-old mother, suffered more than 40 injuries (Staffordshire Police)

Ms Harman said Broadhurst had sought to blame Ms Connolly for her own death and the violence inflicted on her.

“Bearing in mind she died of violent injuries inflicted on her by him it’s hard to see how the sentence wasn’t even four years,” she told The Independent.

“This is a very ominous development. We stopped men getting away with murder by blaming their wife’s infidelity and now we’ve got a new version of male justification for homicide.”

Ms Harman raised concern that the case could set a legal precedent, adding: “When a woman is dead she can’t speak for herself. Any man charged with killing a current or former partner or prostitute could simply say she wanted it.”​

The attorney general’s office confirmed it was considering a member of the public’s request to review the case under the unduly lenient sentence scheme, which could see Broadhurst’s prison sentence increased at the Court of Appeal.

Broadhurst, 40, said he did not think Ms Connolly would come to harm when he left her to go to bed, and did not call 999 until he found her the following morning.

A paramedic pronounced her dead at the scene and a post-mortem found she had died from acute alcohol intoxication and blunt force injuries on 18 December 2016.

Broadhurst was initially charged with murder and grievous bodily harm with intent, but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) accepted his guilty plea to the lesser charge of manslaughter midway through the trial last week.

Jurors were previously told Broadhurst may have wanted to “teach Natalie a lesson” and “lost it” after finding out she had been sending topless pictures to another man on social media.

He was alleged to have inflicted “dreadful” blunt-force injuries to her head, buttocks and breast before spraying her face with bleach.

Broadhurst denied murder and claimed he only hurt Ms Connolly “within the boundaries of her masochistic desires” after an alcohol and drug-fuelled night together.

The court heard that the couple were “in the habit” of having BDSM sex.

But prosecutor David Mason QC told the jury: “We only have Mr Broadhurst’s account as to what happened, as they were the only two in the house at the time.

“Natalie is no longer here to tell us what he did to her or why he left her where he did.”

A paramedic told the court that Broadhurst did not seem “unduly upset” after finding his partner’s body.

Passing sentence on Monday, Justice Julian Knowles told the father-of-three: ”You were capable of taking decisions and making choices. This was grossly irresponsible behaviour by you.

“You left that vulnerable young woman to die in the saddest and most avoidable of circumstances. You showed blatant disregard for a very drunk and injured woman.”

Ms Connolly’s family said it was “harrowing” to learn she had been left to die at the bottom of the stairs, adding: “Instead of getting Natalie the medical help she needed, Broadhurst chose to go to bed and sleep instead.

Millionaire property developer John Broadhurst claimed girlfriend Natalie Connolly died accidentally following 'rough sex'
Millionaire property developer John Broadhurst claimed girlfriend Natalie Connolly died accidentally following 'rough sex' (Staffordshire Police)

"He has demonstrated what a callous, disrespectful person he really is, and has never publicly apologised or shown any remorse."

They added: "Natalie was a loving and caring daughter, granddaughter, and sister, but above all she was a loving mother to her 10-year-old daughter, who now has to grow up without her mummy by her side.

“Natalie was, and still is at the centre of our world, and we will all try to rebuild our lives knowing we will no longer have the beauty, the joy and the happiness of having Natalie by our side.”

Broadhurst, now of Blakeshall Farm in Wolverley, pleaded guilty to manslaughter by leaving Ms Connolly unsupervised and failing to contact the emergency services in circumstances where “a risk of death as a result of her condition” would have been obvious.

The property developer, said to have a fortune of around £15m, had separated from a former partner who was pregnant with their second child around three months before Ms Connolly’s death.

Offering mitigation before sentencing, his defence lawyer said he had set up home with Ms Connolly in the context of a loving relationship.

Stressing that Broadhurst had not been convicted of what prosecutors initially claimed was an “angry” assault, Stephen Vullo QC told the court: “He accepts he should have recognised the risk she was in and failed to do so.

"He feels remorse for it and always has done. This case is about negligence and somebody losing a loved one."

The lawyer added that Broadhurst knew his partner was bleeding but did not think she would come to any harm.

Broadhurst, who was showed no emotion as he was sentenced, was told he will serve half of his sentence in prison and the remainder on licence.

Additional reporting by PA

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