Woman 'stabbed to death by fiance'

Ben Mitchell,Press Association
Sunday 23 October 2011 04:20

A mother-of-four was stabbed to death by her fiance who she met on Facebook just days after he was released by a court where he was convicted of assaulting her, an inquest heard today.

Former Army warrant officer Stewart Shaw stabbed partner Julie Sudlow twice in the back of the head with a kitchen knife at his home in Maralyn Avenue, Waterlooville, Hampshire, on August 7 2009.

The 45-year-old then killed himself later the same day by throwing himself in front of a train close to Winchester railway station, the inquest at Portsmouth was told.

Detective Sergeant Damon Kennard, of Hampshire Police, said the pair had met through Facebook on October 2008 before their "whirlwind romance".

He said: "They first met by Facebook and after that they met in person.

"We know that having met online and then physically they began to see quite a lot of each other."

But the hearing was told that on July 18 2009, Ms Sudlow had locked herself into the bathroom at Mr Shaw's Waterlooville home and dialled 999, reporting that he had struck her across the face.

Police attended the bungalow and Mr Shaw was arrested and charged with common assault.

His bail conditions included not to contact Ms Sudlow but within half an hour of his release he sent her two mobile phone text messages.

The first one read: "It's highly likely that I am going to prison, you know I can't do that. Thanks for ruining my life over a slap."

The second read: "My blood is on your hands, see you in the next life, this life sucks anyway."

Ms Sudlow, 41, who still lived at the same home as her former husband in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, contacted police and Mr Shaw was arrested again, charged with breaching his bail conditions and remanded in custody.

He was brought before Portsmouth Magistrates' Court on July 29 where he pleaded guilty and the case was adjourned for sentencing on August 20.

Mr Shaw was released on bail again with the condition of not contacting Ms Sudlow.

But Mr Kennard told the inquest that the following day Mr Shaw was caught on CCTV travelling towards Oxfordshire and he believed he visited Ms Sudlow.

He said that on the next day the couple travelled to the Isle of Wight for a planned holiday to watch an Anastacia concert.

Mr Kennard said: "Date-stamped photos show that the two appeared to be on good terms, arm in arm and kissing. Hampshire police were not aware of this."

The couple went to the cinema in Portsmouth on August 6, the day before they died, and they were seen arm in arm on CCTV.

Mr Kennard said that the next day Mr Kennard arrived at Siemens traincare depot in Southampton where he worked as a store manager in a "distant" mood, according to colleagues.

He added that after a "flurry" of text messages and unanswered phone calls, Mr Shaw lied to his boss in order to leave work and further text messages show him driving back to his home.

He was then seen driving erratically away from the property before CCTV showed him sitting at Southampton railway station for two hours before heading to Winchester.

Prior to taking his own life, the father-of-two called his wife Donna, who he was still married to, who described his manner as if he was "having a breakdown".

He also told her to "promise, promise" not to take his daughters to his house.

After his death, British Transport Police officers attended his home where they found blood in the hallway with Ms Sudlow's body concealed under a duvet in the bedroom.

Mr Kennard said: "It is my strong belief that the telephone communication between Julie Sudlow and Stewart Shaw was pivotal in causing him to leave his workplace and return home, whereupon he murdered her.

"I can only speculate that the consequences, future capture and conviction, caused him to take his own life later that day."

He explained the details of these last messages were not known because none of the mobile phones had been found.

Post-mortem examinations carried out by pathologist Dr Debbie Cook showed that Ms Sudlow died as a result of two knife wounds to the head and Mr Shaw, who was about one-and-a-half times the alcohol drink-drive limit, died as a result of multiple injuries.

Portsmouth and South East Hampshire Coroner David Horsley recorded a verdict of unlawful killing for Ms Sudlow and suicide for Mr Shaw.

He said: "No-one can imagine the pain that both families have gone through in relation to these two deaths."

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Kennard said: "It had been a whirlwind romance and there was some suggestion from the family that they had been engaged but the reality is that Stewart Shaw was still married and was not in a position to marry anyway."

The hearing was told that Mr Shaw had become an Army Cadet when he was 16 before joining the regular Army at 17.

While working at the Royal Logistics Corps in Marchwood, Southampton, he married Donna Woodford in December 1993. They moved to Cyprus in 1999, returning to the UK two years later.

The hearing was told that Mr Shaw at this time attempted to commit suicide. He retired as a warrant officer in 2003 and the couple separated, but did not divorce, in 2005.

A statement released by Ms Sudlow's family following her death said: "We are devastated by Julie's unexpected death under such tragic circumstances.

"Julie was a good mother, daughter, sister, auntie and friend. She was happy and looking forward to the future.

"We are trying to come to terms with what has happened and would like to thank everyone for their messages of sympathy and support. We appreciate all the support from the police and the progress they are making with their investigations

"We request privacy at this very difficult time to come to terms with our loss."

Tributes were also left on Ms Sudlow's page on the Facebook social networking site.

Her son Andrew Sudlow wrote: "mum please come back!!!!! i need you!!!"

Another son, Martin, wrote: "im playing beyonce, try and help me to sleep - i know how you loved that album."

Her sister Sharon Malone wrote: "i love you so much miss you already little sis."