Page last updated at 17:04 GMT, Friday, 13 November 2009

Stalker in bolt gun murder jailed

John McFarlane
John McFarlane had stalked his victim, the court heard

A "delusional" killer has been jailed for life for murdering a mother with a bolt gun, hours after she had phoned police expressing fears about him.

Mary Griffiths, 38, of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, died early on 6 May after the attack, which also left one of her three daughters with minor injuries.

John McFarlane, 40, who had admitted murder, was told by the Old Bailey judge he would serve at least 20 years.

He had stalked his victim after she rejected his advances, the court heard.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which is investigating the case, said after the sentencing: "This deeply shocking murder demands answers and we are working hard to provide them to Mary's family."

Rejected advances

Sentencing, Mr Justice Bean told McFarlane: "Three generations of Mary Griffiths's family have suffered a tragic and devastating loss.

"Her children have been deprived of a loving and caring mother."

Outside court, the victim's sister Louise Scannell, flanked by family members, wept as she described her as a "beloved angel" and McFarlane as the "devil incarnate".

Mary Griffiths
Mary Griffiths was shot in front of her daughters

"Mary was the most beautiful person I have ever known," she said.

Ms Griffiths had called police just hours earlier to voice fears that McFarlane was stalking her after she rejected his advances.

McFarlane, who worked as a slaughterman at the Denham estate nearby, took revenge after the fitness instructor posted a Facebook message saying he was "delusional" if he thought they would ever have a relationship.

In May last year he smashed through the back door of her home with an axe as she and her three daughters slept.

He turned off the house lights before charging up the stairs and, just as she turned on the bedroom lamp, burst in.

McFarlane dragged Ms Griffiths from the room, where she had been sleeping with her 10-year-old daughter, and beat her.

Mental health inquiry

The mother screamed for help as she was attacked and managed to get outside where her 13-year-old girl shouted "Don't do it, stop it" as McFarlane shot her mother.

Louise Ryan, Mary's sister: John McFarlane is "the devil incarnate"

She was shot twice in the chest and once in the left shoulder with a bolt gun normally used for stunning livestock.

The killer was found later lying in a back garden having cut his arms in an apparent suicide attempt.

Following the plea he again tried to take his own life and remains on 24-hour suicide watch, the court was told.

Det Ch Insp Rick Munns, of Suffolk Police, said: "It is difficult to imagine a more traumatic and tragic case."

Mike Crimp, of Suffolk CPS, said: "We don't know, and we may never know, what drove McFarlane to commit such an act, but his guilty plea demonstrates that he knew what he was doing at the time."

In May the BBC revealed that Ms Griffith's killer had been considered for sectioning by West Suffolk Hospital prior to the murder.

The Suffolk Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust is also investigating the case.

This week a spokesman said the trust had now been given permission by police to talk to staff about any contact with McFarlane prior to the death.

Print Sponsor

Inquiry following woman's killing
01 Jun 09 |  Suffolk
Murder suspect 'treated earlier'
13 May 09 |  Suffolk
Mother found dead after 999 call
08 May 09 |  Suffolk
Mother killed in stabbing named
07 May 09 |  Suffolk
Man arrested in stab murder probe
06 May 09 |  Suffolk

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2020 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific