TWO ‘morally degenerate’ women have been jailed for life for the ‘barbaric’ murder of a Rossendale business woman.
Sadie Hartley was stabbed 40 times during a ‘savage’ attack by Sarah Williams, who had moments earlier paralysed her defenceless victim with a stun gun.
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For her part in the murder, Williams, 35, was jailed for life with a minimum sentence of 30 years.
Her partner in crime Katrina Walsh, 56, was also given a life sentence and told she would serve at least 25 years.
She played a key role in buying the murder weapons, delivering flowers to Ms Hartley’s home in Sunnybank Road, Helmshore as part of a plan to identify her to Williams and helping to cover up the crime, the court heard.
Judge, Mr Justice Turner, said she took ‘depraved satisfaction’ from helping to kill another human being.
Passing sentence Judge Turner said: “Sarah Williams, over a period of about 18 months you plotted the murder of a woman whose only crime was to love the man you wanted for yourself. But let no one make the mistake of thinking that this was a crime of passion.
“It was a crime of obsession, of arrogance, of barbarity but, above all, it was a crime of pure evil. And over that period of 18 months of scheming you found in Katrina Walsh both a fellow spirit and enthusiastic participant.
“You, Walsh, are every bit as morally degenerate as Williams. No wonder you have been the best of friends over so many years. You have so much in common being not merely indifferent to the suffering you inflict on others but positively revelling in it.”
Speaking after sentencing, Superintendent Paul Withers, who led the investigation, described the murder as the worst crime he has ever had to investigate.
He said: “This murder was nothing short of the cold-blooded, premeditated and carefully planned assassination of an entirely innocent woman and I welcome the verdicts.
“While it may have been Sarah Williams who carried out the actual killing of Sadie Hartley, there can be no doubt that Katrina Walsh helped her every step of the way and was up to her neck in the planning of this brutal slaying. They are both as culpable as each other.”
During a seven-week trial at Preston Crown Court jurors heard that Williams was obsessed with Miss Hartley’s partner Ian Johnston, 57, who she had a brief fling with in 2012.
The court heard she had been texting Mr Johnston in a bid to get him back and even sent explicit photographs.
Williams and co-defendant Walsh hatched plans to ‘eliminate’ Miss Hartley, which ended up in an ‘orgy of violence’.
It was not the only plan discussed, with other plots being documented in Walsh’s diaries.
In August 2015, Williams even attempted to recruit Walsh’s ex-husband, Kevin Walsh, as a hit man. Walsh went on to write about a ‘plan b’ being needed and in September 2015, referred to thoughts of ‘a hit’ on a motorcycle.
She also wrote of using an Isis flag ‘to mislead the investigation too, I’m much more into that’.
Explaining her actions, Walsh went on to tell police that she ‘largely thought’ she was taking part in a game of the Channel 4 programme Hunted.
Despite believing they were carrying out the ‘perfect murder’, police were also able to track and trace the defendants’ movements via mobile phones and car number plate monitoring, and also caught them on camera.
Prosecutor John McDermott read out victim impact statements in which Miss Hartley’s daughter Charlotte, 23, said the last conversation she had with her mother was the one when she told her she was engaged. The statement read: “The loss of her has destroyed our lives. The years and family milestones that we will miss out on are unthinkable.
“I honestly don’t know how I am ever going to put these heartbreaking thoughts to the back of my mind.
“The sight of the wounds on my mum’s poor helpless body were horrific.”
In his impact statement Mr Johnston wrote: “When Williams was charged along with Katrina Walsh for the murder of Sadie, I was completely beside myself with feelings of regret.
“Could I possibly have been the reason for them to have so savagely murdered the person that I loved?”
Ms Hartley’s son Harry, 25, said words couldn’t describe how he felt and described Williams and Walsh as ‘dangerous creatures’ who are a ‘danger to society’.
When the jury of three men and eight women delivered the guilty verdicts after six hours of deliberation, Walsh, of Hare Lane, Chester, dressed in a blue bandana, black top and black trousers, stared at the floor as she had done for the majority of the trial. She did not take to the stand to give evidence.
Williams, of Treborth Road, Chester, who wore a green top, black jacket and black trousers, looked straight forward with no emotion on her face.
In a packed public gallery there were tears of relief from Miss Hartley’s family when they verdict was announced.