‘Monster’ carpet fitter who murdered ex and left her body in M1 lay-by jailed

Sarah Henshaw’s badly decomposed body was found in a wooded area five days after she was killed

Holly Evans
Tuesday 19 December 2023 14:54 GMT
Sarah Henshaw was no longer in a relationship with Darren Hall when he killed her
Sarah Henshaw was no longer in a relationship with Darren Hall when he killed her (PA)

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

A man who murdered a mother-of-two and callously dumped her body in an isolated lay-by near the M1 motorway has been jailed for life.

Darren Hall had attacked his ex-girlfriend Sarah Henshaw at her home in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, on the night of 20 June before driving her body 20 miles to a secluded woodland area. Jurors heard that the two had met in 2011 and had experienced a turbulent relationship but were separated at the time of her death.

The 36-year-old carpet fitter had let himself into her property in Norman Street on the day of the murder, despite previously being asked to surrender his key and repeated requests for him to leave.

Darren Hall has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 17 years
Darren Hall has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 17 years (Derbyshire Constabulary/PA)

An argument broke out, before a loud bang was heard from inside the house. Phone data later showed Hall travelling to the lay-by on the A617, with a forensic download of his phone showing that his torch was turned on and off over the course of a nine-minute period.

He would later lie to her family and friends and say that Ms Henshaw had simply left the house and he had no idea where she was. Over the following days, he disposed of a number of items, including her dressing gown and slippers which officers found in a nearby skip.

Three days after she was killed, police officers were contacted with concerns for her safety and Hall was arrested.

When interviewed, he claimed that no harm had come to her, and concocted a story about driving his van around for an hour after the two had an argument over a pet dog.

After a murder investigation team trawled through his movements in the early hours of June 21, a search team was sent to the layby on 25 June and found Ms Henshaw’s badly decomposed body in a wooded area, five metres away from the road.

Ms Henshaw was killed by her ex-boyfriend before her body was dumped in a remote lay-by
Ms Henshaw was killed by her ex-boyfriend before her body was dumped in a remote lay-by (Derbyshire Police)

In his evidence, Hall claimed that Ms Henshaw had died by falling down the stairs, and that he had “just panicked” when he moved her body to the lay-by.

He also admitted using her phone to text her friend to make others believe she was still alive, and said that he was “not thinking right” at the time.

But prosecutor Michelle Heeley KC said that while the Crown could not be certain as to how Ms Henshaw died, it was “at the hands of this defendant”, with bruising on her neck “about the width of a dressing gown cord”.

After deliberating for four hours, he was found guilty of her murder and has been jailed for a minimum of 17 years.

Sentencing him on Tuesday, Mr Justice Goss said: “Sarah Henshaw was 31 years of age. She was a loud, outgoing and fun-loving person with an infectious laugh.

“The harm you have done and the suffering you have caused can never be undone by any sentence of this court.”

Mr Justice Goss said that Hall had “maintained the fiction” that he had not hurt Ms Henshaw.

She was reported missing despite Darren Hall’s attempts to disguise her disappearance
She was reported missing despite Darren Hall’s attempts to disguise her disappearance (Derbyshire Police)

He said: “Having heard all the evidence, I am satisfied that there were earlier occasions in your relationship where you were violent to Sarah Henshaw and bruised her.

“Whatever arose that caused you to be violent in the bedroom, you attacked her and, although it could not be established by pathological evidence, you almost certainly strangled her.”

Her mother, Lorraine Henshaw, said Hall was a “monster” who disposed of Ms Henshaw’s body like a piece of rubbish.

“All Sarah ever wanted was stability and to settle down with a partner who loved her,” she said. “To me, he (Darren Hall) is a monster who committed the most evil crime a person can do.”

DI Maria Pleace, who led the investigation, said: “Darren Hall is a manipulative, deceiving and dangerous individual.

“Only two people know what exactly happened that night. Sarah cannot tell us, and Hall refuses to give a factual account of the events.

“What we can be sure of is that Sarah’s life ended at his hand, that he dumped her body in the hope that she would never be found and then fabricated a story that Sarah had simply left.

“Thankfully the jury saw through his lies and have rightly found him guilty. Today, as they have been throughout this case, my thoughts are with Sarah’s family and friends.

“They have lost a much-loved niece, daughter, sister, mother and friend in the most heartbreaking circumstances, and I hope that this verdict provides them with the justice they, and Sarah, deserve.

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