Page last updated at 14:21 GMT, Monday, 1 February 2010

'Jigsaw man' butchered by lodger who wanted his life

By Dhruti Shah
BBC News

Jeffrey Howe
Jeffrey Howe's body parts were found dumped in two counties

Two people have been convicted following the murder of Jeffrey Howe, whose body was cut up and scattered across two counties in the spring of 2009.

Stephen Marshall, 38, was jailed for life with a minimum of 36 years. His girlfriend Sarah Bush, 21, was jailed for three years and nine months for perverting the course of justice.

But what lay behind such a grisly murder?

The hunt for the killers of Jeffrey Howe started with the discovery in March 2009 of a severed left leg in a bag in a field near Cottered in Hertfordshire.

Over the course of the next three weeks, members of the public would go on to find more body parts, including his dismembered head with eyes and ears missing, strewn across Hertfordshire and Leicestershire.

The police issued numerous appeals seeking to find out the identity of the so-called "jigsaw man".

They checked missing persons reports and eventually, after checking dental records, detectives were able to match the parts to the missing kitchen salesman.

The 49-year-old had been killed and butchered by his lodger Stephen Marshall, 38, because he was in the way of Marshall and Bush's desire to take over his possessions, his bank accounts and his flat in Southgate, north London.

Volatile temper

Almost a year later, Marshall has been found guilty at St Albans Crown Court of Mr Howe's murder. Initially the lovers Marshall and Bush had blamed each other.

Three weeks into the trial Marshall changed his plea to guilty. The charge of murder against Bush was withdrawn.

Marshall, of Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, and Mr Howe met while both working as kitchen salesmen.

Stephen Marshall. Pic: Hertfordshire Police
Stephen Marshall killed and cut up his landlord Jeffrey Howe

Mr Howe offered Marshall and Bush, a prostitute, a place to stay in November 2008 but he later told friends "[Marshall] wasn't paying any rent and was eating him out of house and home".

Marshall's friends said the killer lived a "playboy lifestyle" involving prostitutes and drugs and was known for having a volatile temper, which had got him into fights with friends as well as strangers.

Marshall, a former personal trainer, and Bush met after he hired her as an escort. The lovers were said to have had a "stormy" relationship.

Bush, who changed her first name from Sara to Sarah at her lover's insistence, would sometimes sneak out behind his back to see her children.

Prosecutors say the couple saw Mr Howe's inability to evict them as a "weakness" and an opportunity for them to take over his life.

Even before the killing, they treated his home as if it was their own. Bush applied for housing benefit pretending she lived alone, while submitting documents signed by Marshall pretending to be Mr Howe.

They told all who asked that Mr Howe had simply "packed and left" when in fact he had been murdered at some point between 8 and 9 March in his own flat in Pickard Close in Southgate.

Neither faltered or lost their nerve
Stuart Trimmer QC,

He had been stabbed in the back twice, although it was a blow using a serrated 4in (10.15cm) blade which punctured his lung that eventually killed him.

Home Office pathologist Simon Poole told St Albans Crown Court Mr Howe may even have been alive for up to an hour before dying and would have suffered a lot of blood loss.

He said the dismemberment had been done "very skilfully" and estimated the whole process would have taken about 12 hours.

The court heard Marshall had previously boasted to at least one female witness he had experience of cutting up and disposing of human bodies.

He had learned the gruesome skill working for his uncles, he told her.

He said he would use a meat cleaver, large meat knives, and sometimes even a chainsaw or a hacksaw.

"He said they would put them into black bags and bury them, sometimes in Epping Forest, sometimes in different places," the witness told the court.

He described burning body parts to her and said the smell was unforgettable, comparing it to the smell of burning pig flesh.

Map of where body parts found

Immediately after Mr Howe was killed by Marshall, the couple began using the dead man's bank account.

Stuart Trimmer QC, prosecuting, said: "Neither faltered or lost their nerve."

They forged cheques, bought new goods including a phone and even set up an account online with shopping chain Littlewoods.

Marshall, a twice-married father-of-four, also set up a fake account in Mr Howe's name on auction site eBay in order to sell Mr Howe's Saab car.

However the pair had not counted on the fact that Mr Howe called his mother several times a week.

She filed a missing persons report and police began investigating. Officers visited the flat the trio had shared but the couple maintained that, as far as they were aware, Mr Howe was alive.

Yet Marshall was tied to the crime after Mr Howe's blood was found in the bathroom and bedroom of the flat they had all shared.

Fibres found in the flat which also matched the material used to wrap the body parts in were another clue.

Bush, a petite brunette who removed her face stud for her trial, failed to help herself by making drunken confessions to her friends.

Fellow escort Danielle Matthews said Bush told her she had seen Marshall kill Mr Howe.

She said Marshall reportedly said he would kill Mr Howe unless his landlord left the flat but Mr Howe had laughed at the threat.

Missing hands

She revealed Mr Howe's hands were in Epping Forest - but they have not yet been found.

After the couple were arrested in April 2009, Bush told police her partner suffered from "mood swings" and she had been preparing to leave him.

She said: "He has his ups and downs. Sometimes he is a nice person, but sometimes he is really evil."

The jury was told Marshall had previous convictions for criminal damage, assault, battery and possessing cocaine and a firearm, while Bush had no criminal convictions but two cautions - one for possessing cannabis and the other for assault.

The IPCC is currently supervising a Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) investigation into how the police handled the case after Mr Howe was reported as a missing person. The MPS stress this is not due to any complaints but "a review" of procedure.

But the investigation will come too late for the kitchen salesman savagely butchered by his lodger in his own home.

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