Page last updated at 18:05 GMT, Monday, 23 November 2009

Pc given life for fiancee murder

Martin Forshaw
The then Pc attacked his fiancee with a hammer and staged the crash

An ex-Pc has been jailed for life with an 18-year minimum tariff for fatally bludgeoning his fiancee and then pretending she had been in a car crash.

Martin Forshaw, 27, of Tottington, Bury, admitted murdering fellow police officer Claire Howarth, 31, with a hammer days before their wedding.

Miss Howarth was found badly hurt in the driver's seat of her BMW on 7 May.

Forshaw had put her injured body into the car and caused it to crash, Manchester Crown Court was told.

He hit Miss Howarth - a serving officer with Greater Manchester Police - at least five times with a lump hammer.

The attack happened as the couple were preparing to fly to St Lucia for their wedding, which had been due to take place five days later.

On the night of her murder Miss Howarth had sent her friend a text message, saying how happy she was.

But less than 30 minutes later she had been beaten around the head, the court heard.

After the attack at their home, Forshaw, then a serving officer with Cheshire Police, carried Miss Howarth downstairs and put her in the car before driving around secluded country lanes.

'Brutal killing'

At one point he stopped off at a house in Harwood to seek assistance.

However, he did not make it to the front door as he struggled to carry her and placed her on the driveway.

"Realising she was mortally wounded and was dying, he at that stage returned to the vehicle, brought back the hammer and struck her twice," Peter Wright, defending, told the court.

"He wanted to put her out of her her pain," he added.

Shortly after driving off, Forshaw stopped the car again, moved his fiancee into the driver's seat and sat in the passenger's seat while pressing the accelerator to deliberately crash the vehicle into a hedge.

Prosecutor Ray Wigglesworth QC said Forshaw then dialled 999 and reported the bogus accident.

Claire Howarth (Pic: Greater Manchester Police)

At the scene, Forshaw told the emergency services his fiancee had not been wearing a seatbelt.

The couple had been together for 10 months but there was evidence that Forshaw was still seeing the mother of his four-year-old son.

Meanwhile, he kept the impending wedding a secret from some of his colleagues.

The court was told the Pc was "torn" over his feelings for the two women and told his fiancee the wedding was cancelled before he struck her with the hammer.

Describing it as an "absolute tragedy" Forshaw "panicked" as he carried his fiancee to the car and put the hammer in the boot, Mr Wright said.

"He ought to have driven immediately to the hospital. He did not.

"It unfolded over a relatively short period of time, involving a man who had not previously showed violent tendencies and had a position of responsibility."

'Immediately suspicious'

Describing the murder as "a brutal killing", Justice David Clarke jailed Forshaw for life.

The judge added the ending of the relationship had produced the "highest emotions" with "the results we can all see".

Miss Howarth died at Royal Bolton Hospital, where a post-mortem examination revealed she had suffered "severe head trauma" and 14 separate injuries to her neck and head.

When questioned, Forshaw said Miss Howarth had been attacking him with the hammer and she was hit as he tried to defend himself.

However pathologists said this was "totally implausible".

Andy Tattersall said police were still not sure of Forshaw's motive

Miss Howarth had been due to take up a position as a police community beat manager in Rochdale after completing her probationary period.

Forshaw, who was known at work by his middle name Alex, resigned from Cheshire Police when he was charged with Miss Howarth's murder.

The force described him as a "quiet and efficient officer".

According to Cheshire Police his arrest was a "shock" to "those who knew and worked alongside him" because he had made no mention of problems in his private life.

Senior investigating officer Andy Tattersall said: "It was such a poor attempt to make it look like a crash that both the police and the ambulance service were immediately suspicious, and the severity of Claire's head injuries meant they could not have been caused by such a minor crash."



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