Fantasist who murdered Sadie Hartley in love triangle obsession faked her own kidnap as a teenager
Published 17/08/2016 | 14:05
A murderer described as a "bunny boiler", who spent years taking revenge on the married lovers who spurned her, even faked her own kidnap and sex attack to cover up an illicit encounter, according to friends.
Sarah Williams was drawn to older company from her late teens.
Her co-defendant, Katrina Walsh - herself 21 years the senior of Williams - told police her friend had been bullied over her lazy eye.
And Williams believed she would be more easily accepted in older social circles than by her peers, Walsh, 56, thought.
At the age of 18, Williams left secondary school in Birkenhead, Merseyside, and started looking for employment.
By then she was in a relationship with a man who was 40 years older than her.
In early 1999 she met David Hardwick, who ran his own heating oils business. In April of that year the then 17-year-old had fallen in love with the 57-year-old married father.
Williams had met the fellow horse rider at Wirral Riding Centre in Neston which she had been visiting since she was 12.
She told the jury in her murder trial at Preston Crown Court that she endured "a bad start" to life when aged 13 she was dragged off her bike near the stables, bundled into a car boot and driven away.
Her abductor then physically assaulted her before she was later abandoned in a country lane six hours later, she said.
Her barrister put forward the theory that it could explain her later mistrust of men and her irrational behaviour.
From 2005 to 2013, Williams sold personal insurance from the offices of HBOS bank near Chester city centre.
And in 2006 she moved out from living with her mother and bought her first home in Victoria Road, Ellesmere Port.
Largely bankrolled by Mr Hardwick - who was still living with wife Rowena - she lived beyond her means thanks to his weekly transfers of £320 to her bank account.
In June 2010 she moved into her most recent address in Treborth Road, Blacon, Chester, with Mr Hardwick giving her £75,000 to cover half the purchase price.
More cash flowed into her pockets as she rented out her Ellesmere Port property and later acquired another property in Boyd Close, Leasowe, Wirral, to rent out thanks to a £43,000 "loan" from Walsh.
Williams and Mr Hardwick's life revolved around horse riding and the many exotic holidays around the world they would enjoy - up to 12 a year, according to Mr Hardwick.
Fatefully though, one day just before her 30th birthday, Williams was driving on the M60 motorway in Manchester. She glanced across to the highly visible Chill Factore indoor ski centre and thought: "I fancy a new hobby."
Mr Hardwick, 75, said he was too old to ski but faced with the prospect of her going alone - and maybe fearing losing her - he tagged along.
She threw herself into the new pursuit with gusto and quickly became an accomplished skier.
Williams and Mr Hardwick spent so much time at the Crystal Ski travel agent's at the Chill Factore that they eventually gave her a job as a sales adviser.
Sex was also on Williams' mind however, and, within months of first learning to ski, she was having an affair with her instructor - a 47-year-old married Thai martial arts gym owner, Somapat Sitiwatjana.
Mr Hardwick initially sanctioned the fling, said Williams, but she later thought he was on the verge of leaving her after he became jealous.
But he stayed with her and after Williams' relationship cooled with Mr Sitiwatjana - known as Master A - she moved on to sleeping with another ski instructor.
Williams met Andy Poole while staying in the same ski lodge on holiday with Mr Hardwick in the French resort of Tignes in January 2012
A sexual relationship developed on their return to the UK, apparently behind Mr Hardwick's back, before Mr Poole said it finally ended 12 months later because Williams would not leave her elderly lover.
Williams swiftly turned to her next conquest, Ian Johnston, 57, an ex-fireman who was at the top of the tree in the specialist field of Telemark skiing - a combination of the Alpine and Nordic disciplines.
Their liaisons culminated with a spurned Williams writing to his wealthy partner, Sadie Hartley, accusing her, ironically, of buying Mr Johnston's affections and that he really wanted to be with her instead.
After her desperate attempt to break the couple up ended in failure, a bitter, cunning and arrogant Williams meticulously planned the ruthless execution of Ms Hartley.
Part of her plan involved the clueless Mr Hardwick - unaware of the relationship with Mr Johnston - providing a supposed alibi for the night of the murder on January 14 after he earlier doted on her as she faked illness in bed.
As usual, he came round at 5am the following day to walk her dog, Gnasher, and then got into bed for a cuddle.
Believing she had committed "the perfect murder", Williams, 35, went into work later the same day seemingly without a care in the world.
Mr Hardwick had already booked their next globetrotting excursions - a fortnight's holiday in Banff, Canada, on February 6 and another trip to Canada weeks later on March 5 to the ski resort of Fernie.
Barely two hours after police had smashed down her front door to arrest Williams, Mr Hardwick called round to Treborth Road at 5am on January 17.
Describing his reaction to finding police officers outside on his arrival, he nearly broke down in the witness box as he told the jury of his shock.
He said: "I couldn't believe it. I asked them if they had got the right Sarah Williams.