INDEPENDENT 2024-03-01 16:34:52


Killer ‘motivated by sex’ murdered ex and her new partner days after she reported him to police

An obsessive ex-boyfriend “executed” a mother of four and her new partner just four days after she reported him to the police.

Marcus Osborne, 35, of Harpe Inge, Dalton in West Yorkshire, has been sentenced to a whole life order at Leeds Crown Court for the murder of his ex-partner Katie Higton and her new boyfriend Steven Harnett, 25.

Ms Higton, 27, had told West Yorkshire Police that she feared Osborne would seriously harm or kill her, after he made repeated threats that he would murder her if she got another boyfriend.

Days later, he brutally stabbed her and Mr Harnett at her home in Huddersfield on 15 May 2023, with both pronounced dead at the scene.

Osborne said: “Romeo and Juliet can f***ing die together now” after the brutal double killing which left Ms Higton with 99 injuries and Mr Harnett with 24 wounds including mutilated genitals.

A family member shouted “I hope you rot in hell” from the public gallery as Osborne was taken away.

The judge, Mrs Justice Lambert, said the killings were “sexual in nature” and driven by Osborne’s “pathological jealousy”.

“I do not accept (the murders) are explained by your entrenched insecurity about being abandoned as a result of a neglected childhood,” she added.

“Everything you did was motivated by sex and your need to sexually humiliate and degrade.”

The judge also said Ms Higton’s murder was a “merciless and sustained attack on a woman who was completely defenceless”.

She said that during the attack, which started “before (Ms Higton) even got through the front door”, Osborne was heard saying: “I warned you I was going to kill you… this is your fault this is happening.”

He then raped another woman, who he had held captive in the house overnight, at knifepoint. The court heard four children were in the house during the murders.

The judge said the woman who was held captive in the house described Osborne washing himself between killings, laughing and jeering, later even inviting a neighbour into the living room to see the bodies “as if you were proud of what you had done”.

The court heard that Osborne lay in wait for Ms Higton and launched a brutal attack on her as soon as she came through the door of the house they once shared in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

Osborne then used Ms Higton’s phone to pretend to be her and lure Mr Harnett to the house.

Prosecutor Jonathan Sandiford KC said: “The defendant committed a premeditated and brutal double murder motivated by sexual jealousy, a desire to exercise control over Katie Higton, an unwillingness to accept her decision to leave him and her freedom to form a relationship with another man.”

Ms Higton had been in a relationship with Osborne for five years, but left him in early May last year after an assault on April 28 which was “the last straw”.

She later told police the relationship had become “coercive, controlling and physically abusive” in the last two years and that she had been regularly assaulted, including one incident when he threw a cat at her, the court heard.

Osborne also has convictions for violent offences against two previous partners in 2011 and 2012, Mr Sandiford said.

In the days before the murders, Ms Higton told West Yorkshire Police Osborne had told her “he would slit her throat if she said what he had done”, and that “if she ever got a boyfriend he would kill them both”.

Osborne was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence offences on May 12 and bailed with conditions not to go back to their home, but spied on her over the following days before taking a taxi to the house on the night of the murders.

At the time the murder was reported, professionals were holding an urgent meeting to discuss ways to protect Ms Higton and her four children.

The court heard he found out about the developing relationship between Ms Higton and Mr Harnett by hacking into her Snapchat account.

A victim personal statement by Ms Higton’s mother Nicola McAlister, read in court, said Osborne was “a monster of the worst kind”.

Osborne had pleaded guilty to two counts of murder and other offences. The judge also imposed 10-year concurrent sentences for the rape and false imprisonment of the other woman in the house.

She told Osborne: “There are no mitigating factors in your case other than your guilty plea. There is no psychiatric or other evidence placed before me to explain or help me understand your actions.

“This is a case of such exceptional seriousness that even a very long minimum term would not be a just punishment. What you did that night was horrific.”

Following her death, Ms Higton’s family and friends paid tribute to her as “the best mum” and said the family was “absolutely devastated” as they placed flowers on behalf of her two eldest children at the scene.

Ms Higton’s former brother-in-law, who asked not to be named, said his brother had been in a relationship with the mother-of-four for seven years and was the father of her two eldest children, daughters aged nine and 10.

He described Ms Higton as “bubbly, outgoing, fun” and “a great mum”.

Bob Mortimer gives health update and says he’s been left with ‘terrible feeling’

Bob Mortimer has shared the extent of his medical issues after telling his fans he’s “not very healthy right now”.

The comedian, who had major heart surgery in 2015, first opened up about his ongoing medical issues in September 2022, revealing that he ended up in hospital after filming Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing.

Mortimer’s health issues meant he had to be replaced for an episode of the lifestyle series. The TV star chose his friend Lee Mack to join Whitehouse – a decision that divided viewers who complained about the lack of chemistry between the pair.

At the time Mortimer revealed his health issues, he also said he had recently discovered that his rheumatoid arthritis had returned after 29 years.

However, it was an illness that Mortimer got in 2023 that led to him having what he described as “a very, very, very unhealthy year for me”.

In fact, the comedian went so far as to tell his co-star Paul Whitehouse in a new interview: “You know what? It was worse than my heart period.”

Last year, Mortimer got shingles, a skin infection that causes a painful rash and is caused by the varicella-zoster virus – the same virus that causes chickenpox.

He revealed in a new article featured in Metro on Friday (1 March) that he’s lost the usage of several muscles, which has left him with a “terrible feeling” that he might no longer be able to exercise by going for runs.

He said: “The muscles I’ve lost, I’ve lost… But other ones can compensate for it, you know what I mean?”

Mortimer said that, while he “can make the other muscles stronger”, he has “a terrible feeling I’m never going to be able to run again”, adding: “You know that I used to like to run, Paul.”

In 2015, the TV star had a triple heart bypass operation after he was diagnosed with coronary heart disease.

Gone Fishing was born when Whitehouse, who Mortimer had known for 30 years, invited his longtime friend fishing to get him out of the house after the surgery.

Lewis Hamilton targets pole position in first qualifying of the season

The first grand prix of Formula 1’s 2024 season continues today with free practice three and qualifying ahead of Saturday’s race with the noise surrounding Christian Horner refusing to fade.

Thursday’s action in Bahrain, with the Grand Prix set for Saturday, saw an unexpectedly quick run from RB’s Daniel Ricciardo who topped FP1 on a set of soft tyres before Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton went fastest in FP2. The Brit was a touch under half-a-second quicker than Max Verstappen as Red Bull seemingly struggled to find their pace.

The seven-time world champion led a Mercedes one-two at the Sakhir Circuit as George Russell finished just behind Hamilton with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso third and Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari in fourth. Verstappen finished sixth, though there are rumours that Red Bull are hiding the true pace of the car.

Elsewhere, Christian Horner drew the media’s attention after Whatsapps allegedly sent by him to a female colleague were leaked to the press, in what could be an embarrassing development for the Red Bull team principal who had previous been investigated and cleared over alleged ’inappropriate behaviour’.

Follow updates from the Bahrain Grand Prix with The Independent:

Children among 17 injured after car hits crowd of people in Poland

Three children are among 17 people injured after a car drove into a crowd of people in northwestern Poland.

Two are in a critical condition after the incident in the centre of the seaport city of Szczecin, while a 33-year-old man who fled the scene has been apprehended, the website Poland-24 reported.

“We have an incident here with currently 17 people injured, including three minors and two in critical condition. The person who caused the accident has been detained,” provincial governor Adam Rudawski was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse.

The driver fled the scene at Rodla Square in the seaport’s city centre, before crashing into another vehicle several streets away and fleeing once again, firefighter Tomasz Kubiak told Polish national broadcaster TVP, which carried footage showing emergency vehicles at the scene.

More follows…

Cruel trio who murdered mother they fed ketchup sachets are jailed

Three sadistic killers who tortured, starved and battered to death a mother fed only ketchup sachets have each been jailed for life.

Ashana Studholme, 38, her lover Shaun Pendlebury, 26, and their friend Lisa Richardson, 44, inflicted “an orgy of violence” on vulnerable Shakira Spencer in a “sadistic campaign” that ended with her dying in a cupboard in her flat in Ealing, in west London.

The 35-year-old fell under the influence of the trio, and would be woken up in the early hours to clean their homes or be sent on errands to the shops over many months in which she was isolated and robbed of her money.

They also scalded Ms Spencer’s feet and fed her own ketchup from sachets.

The defendants were all convicted of murder and preventing Ms Spencer a lawful burial after trial last year.

On Friday at the Old Bailey, Studholme, of Greenhill Road, Harrow; Pendlebury, of Tewkesbury Road, Ealing, and Richardson, of Broomcroft Avenue, Ealing, were all jailed for life with a minimum term of 34 years.

Judge Angela Rafferty KC, said desrcribed the treatment of Ms Spencer as an “orgy of violence”, adding: “This was a sadistic campaign in which you all took pleasure in inflicting pain and suffering on a vulnerable woman.”

Ms Spencer was once described as a “beautiful, happy, healthy” woman, but after months of torture at the hands of the trio she became “skeletal”, going from a size 16 dress size to a six.

They stole her self-respect, her children, and her home, took over her finances and controlled her life.

Her shocking treatment came to a climax when she was beaten in a “frenzied, violent assault” between 9 and 12 September 2022. The trial heard how Pendlebury and Studholme then took her to her home where she was left to die in cupboard less than a week later.

Her death was only discovered when neighbours saw maggots coming from her flat and her badly decomposed body was found.

CCTV recovered by police showed the defendants using their victim’s credit card to purchase cleaning product in an attempt to clean up the crime scenes and remove evidence linking them to her.

While messages found on the defendants’ phones included videos of Ms Spencer being beaten up, while others laughed and jeered.

Ms Spencer’s son described the trio who killed his mother as “cruel and evil” in an impact statement read out to Friday’s hearing.

The individual, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: “I’ve suffered with daily nightmares and anxiety over what happened to her, I cannot get the horrible image of my mother looking skinny and unwell out of my head.

“Why were they (the defendants) so heartless? What could cause them to torture another human? I hope that every day they feel bad for the choices they have made.

“I cannot believe people she thought were her friends would ever do this to her. These people are cruel and evil, they do not deserve to live a normal happy life again.”

The son also paid tribute to his mother, describing her as “the best” and saying he missed her every day.

He added: “I never got to say goodbye to her, or to tell her that I loved her – these people let her die alone with her feeling she was unloved, as they had taken everybody away from her.”

Senior crown prosecutor Devi Kharran said Ms Spencer’s suffering was “simply unimaginable”.

He said: “Evidence presented during the trial proved that Pendlebury, Studholme and Richardson exercised twisted and sadistic control of Shakira Spencer over an extended period.

“Our thoughts remain with all of Shakira’s family and friends. I hope this conviction brings them some sense of justice.”

How to help create a smokefree generation

“Some people can just stop and then never smoke again, but for most it’s hard,” says Tim Eves a 45-year-old father of three from West Sussex.

“It’s just getting through those initial tough few months. Once you do the benefits hugely outweigh the stress of giving it up.”

Tim was a smoker for around 12 years, but gave up with help from a local support group who introduced him to nicotine patches and gum.

“I won’t pretend it isn’t hard,” he adds. “The first few months, you have it in your head that you’d love to have just one cigarette. But now, if we happen to be in the pub it doesn’t even enter my head.”

Taking the first step to go smokefree may sound daunting, but quitting smoking offers significant health benefits – and can save you money.

Tobacco is the single most important entirely preventable cause of ill health, disability and death in this country, responsible for 80,000 deaths in the UK each year.

It causes around 1-in-4 cancer deaths in the UK and is responsible for just over 70 per cent of all lung cancer cases.

Smoking also substantially increases the risk of many major health conditions throughout people’s lives, such as strokes, diabetes, heart disease, stillbirth, dementia and asthma.

Smoking increases the chance of stillbirth by almost half and makes children twice as likely to be hospitalised for asthma from second-hand smoking.

And a typical addicted smoker spends £2,400 a year.

Jo Howarth, 52, from St Helens, Merseyside, finally kicked her addiction after 20 years of on-and-off smoking.

“I was quite anti-smoking as a young teenager, but I started when I was 16 because I wanted to fit in with the cool crowd,” she says.

“I knew it was bad for me, but it was so hard to give up. I tried cold turkey, hypnotherapy and at one point I had a staple in my ear, but I never lasted more than about six months.

“After I got married, I wanted to conceive so I cut down to one a day but the moment I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, I stopped.

“As soon as the reason outweighed the addiction, I found a reason to stop and as a hypnotherapist I know that pinpointing why you’re addicted is the key to stopping.

“I used to think that smoking calmed me down, but now I realise that’s a myth – it was just the deep breaths I was taking while I did it. Without it I’m so much healthier and I’m determined to stay smokefree for my kids.”

Smokers lose an average of 10 years life expectancy – around one year for every four smoking years.

Smokers also need care on average 10 years earlier than they would otherwise have – often while still of working age.

‘’Smoking is based on addiction and most people wish they had never taken it up,” says Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer.

“They try to stop and they cannot. Their choice has been taken away. As a doctor I have seen many people in hospital desperate to stop smoking but they cannot.”

The government is now working on creating a smokefree generation.

The new proposals give citizens more freedom. Smoking is not a choice, it is an addiction, and the large majority of smokers and ex-smokers regret ever starting in the first place.

Creating a smokefree generation will be one of the most significant public health measures in a generation, saving thousands of lives and billions of pounds for our NHS and the economy, and levelling up the UK by tackling one of the most important preventable drivers of inequality in health outcomes.

New laws will protect future generations from ever taking up smoking as well as tackling youth vaping by:

Alongside the Bill, there will be new funding to support current smokers to quit by doubling the funding of local ‘stop smoking services’ (to nearly £140 million) as well as £30m of new funding to crack down on illicit tobacco and underage sale of tobacco and vapes.

We must radically overhaul policing to prevent the next Wayne Couzens

Meticulous, thorough and measured as Elish Angiolini’s report into the murderer Wayne Couzens undoubtedly is, it begs yet more questions about the quite astonishing series of blunders made by a series of police forces – mistakes and negligence that led to the rape and murder of Sarah Everard.

For all the investigations, inquiries and intense public debates about the conduct and morals of the police in recent decades, it seems that something as basic as ensuring that a known sex offender is not given a police uniform, warrant card and a gun eluded three separate police forces.

Her report represents a tragic and distressing account of successive missed opportunities, “red lights” that should have taken Couzens out of circulation. Those mistakes – and other high-profile, shameful scandals – have left public confidence in the police shredded. It is intolerable and unspeakably dangerous for women in London – and elsewhere – to feel too nervous to approach a male police officer. Lady Elish’s initial report (two more will follow) goes some way to documenting what went wrong and how to fix things.

Do protests and demonstrations threaten democracy – or guarantee it?

The prime minister has seemingly started a war against something that largely doesn’t exist – “mob rule”. Rishi Sunak, perhaps pushed by some on the right of his party who value order above free speech, has warned police chiefs of a “growing consensus that mob rule is replacing democratic rule”.

Some of his rather sketchy proposals to end this supposed threat to civilisation are commonsensical and consensual – curtailing intimidatory meetings outside MPs’ homes, for example. Others are vague and merely rhetorical: “We simply cannot allow this pattern of increasingly violent and intimidatory behaviour which is, as far as anyone can see, intended to shout down free debate and stop elected representatives doing their job. That is simply undemocratic … I am going to do whatever it requires to protect our democracy and our values that we all hold dear.”

Sunak’s remarks and use of the hyperbolic phrase “mob rule” actually suggest he shares the views of Lee Anderson about such protests, even though he has said the words used by Anderson himself were “wrong”.