Page last updated at 20:05 GMT, Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Man sentenced for crash stabbing

Alan Entwistle
Alan Entwistle was charged with kidnap a month before the killing

A man who was released on bail despite vowing to kill his ex-girlfriend has been jailed for life for stabbing her to death.

Alan Entwistle, 52, of Fleetwood, Lancashire, planned the murder of Claire Atkinson, 31, over a number of weeks, Preston Crown Court heard.

He then drove around with the mother-of-two's lifeless body in his front seat before crashing it in April.

Entwistle, who admitted murder, was ordered to serve at least 20 years.

The ex-bouncer had been charged with kidnapping Miss Atkinson and threatening her with a knife just a month before her murder.

'Manipulative'

The court heard that he had told her: "If I cannot have you then no one else can."

On the day of Miss Atkinson's death, Entwistle stalked her as she walked home from work.

He coaxed her into his car and stabbed her 13 times in the heart and chest in the passenger seat.

Judge Anthony Russell QC branded the defendant a "manipulative man".

Claire Atkinson
Her sons... have had their caring and loving mum, who they loved deeply and adored spending time with, taken away from them at such a young age
Statement from Claire Atkinson's family

"This was a chilling murder carried out mercilessly for your own selfish and self-centred reasons," he said. "You persistently stalked her and you told a number of people you would kill her. Your conduct beggars belief."

Entwistle, who was said to have expressed no remorse over the killing, said "sorry" towards the public gallery where members of Miss Atkinson's family were sitting just before he was led from the dock.

A month before the fatal attack he had appeared at Fleetwood Magistrates' Court over allegations that he falsely imprisoned Ms Atkinson and had vowed to kill her.

The court was told he had produced a large stainless steel knife and told her, 'that's what you are going to get'.

Magistrates opted to remand Entwistle in custody ahead of a pending trial after listening to the background of the case.

Judge Stuart Baker at Preston Crown Court overruled the decision on 12 March after legal representatives for the father-of-five applied for a review of the decision at Preston Crown Court.

'Right to bail'

A Judicial Communications Office spokeswoman said: "In every case, the Bail Act 1976 governs the decision whether a defendant who has been charged with an offence - which in this case was contested - should be kept in custody prior to the trial or released on bail.

"Under the Act, there is a general right to bail which applies unless the case falls within specific criteria laid out in the Act itself.

"Having listened to representations from both prosecution and defence, the judge concluded that the defendant need not be remanded in custody prior to trial as long as strict conditions were in place."

Speaking outside court of the bail decision, Det Insp Phil Burke, of Lancashire Police, said: "Our role is to gather evidence to put before the courts. We did nothing wrong at all.

"The court considers the facts and then make the decisions. It is not for me to comment whether that was right or wrong.

"It is apparent that, when his relationship with Claire broke down, Entwistle would not accept it and began to plan her murder over several weeks.

'Tragic loss'

"He eventually committed it coldly and callously. Claire did nothing to provoke him. Previous partners of Entwistle have described similar violent, possessive and bullying behaviour."

In a statement issued following her death, Miss Atkinson's family, said: "We are completely devastated at the sudden and tragic loss of our precious and beautiful daughter and sister.

"Claire was very outgoing, with a bubbly and lively character. She had a sparkling personality and loved her life with her boys.

"Her sons, Harvey, aged 10, and Euan, aged eight, have had their caring and loving mum, who they loved deeply and adored spending time with, taken away from them at such a young age."



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