Monday 26 September 2016

Ski instructor who allegedly murdered love rival in 'orgy of violence' was 'bizarre, psychotic and unhinged' - fellow instructor tells court

Kim Pilling and Pat Hurst

Published 07/07/2016 | 20:31

Sadie Hartley, as Sarah Williams is appearing at Preston Crown Court accused of her murder. Lancashire Constabulary/PA Wire
Sadie Hartley, as Sarah Williams is appearing at Preston Crown Court accused of her murder. Lancashire Constabulary/PA Wire
Police outside a house on Sunny Bank Road in Helmshore, Lancashire as a murder investigation has been launched after Sadie Hartley was found dead. Pat Hurst/PA Wire
Former husband Garry Hartley, daughter Charlotte Hartley and brother Graham Cook arriving at Preston Crown court for the trial of Sarah Williams who is accused of the murder of Sadie Hartley. PA Wire
Sadie Hartley, as Sarah Williams is appearing at Preston Crown Court accused of her murder.Lancashire Constabulary/PA Wire
Sadie Hartley, as Sarah Williams is appearing at Preston Crown Court accused of her murder. Lancashire Constabulary/PA Wire
Sadie Hartley, as Sarah Williams is appearing at Preston Crown Court accused of her murder. Lancashire Constabulary/PA Wire
Sadie Hartley, as Sarah Williams is appearing at Preston Crown Court accused of her murder. Lancashire Constabulary/PA Wire
Ian Johnston with his partner Sadie Hartley, as Sarah Williams is appearing at Preston Crown Court accused of the murder of the mother of two. Lancashire Constabulary/PA Wire

A ski instructor said to have murdered her love rival in an "an orgy of violence" was "a bizarre character, psychotic and unhinged", a jury has heard.

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A fellow instructor said Sarah Williams, 35, was infatuated with ex-fireman Ian Johnston, 57, and referred to his partner, Sadie Hartley, as "The Bitch".

Williams is said to have paralysed Ms Hartley with a stun gun before stabbing her 40 times on the doorstep of her home in the upmarket village of Helmshore, Lancashire.

The 60-year-old mother-of-two, a "decent, hard-working" communications director, was found dead in a pool of blood in the hallway of her house the day after the attack on January 14 this year.

The Crown say Williams began plotting the murder 17 months before when Mr Johnston broke off their relationship as she became "possessive and difficult".

Williams met Mr Johnston on the indoor ski slopes at Manchester's Chill Factore where she had learned the sport and went on to become a Level 1 instructor herself.

Sadie Hartley, as Sarah Williams is appearing at Preston Crown Court accused of her murder. Lancashire Constabulary/PA Wire
Sadie Hartley, as Sarah Williams is appearing at Preston Crown Court accused of her murder. Lancashire Constabulary/PA Wire

Giving evidence at Preston Crown Court on Thursday, Richard Savery said he was among a group including Williams that would meet regularly at the complex.

He recalled a conversation with the defendant and her then boyfriend, David Hardwick, a man aged in his 70s, when she made a threat to kill.

Williams was "very protective" of a woman in the ski group who was apparently being emotionally abused by her partner, the court heard.

Mr Savery said: "Sarah had threatened to kill him, in front of me.

Former husband Garry Hartley, daughter Charlotte Hartley and brother Graham Cook arriving at Preston Crown court for the trial of Sarah Williams who is accused of the murder of Sadie Hartley. PA Wire
Former husband Garry Hartley, daughter Charlotte Hartley and brother Graham Cook arriving at Preston Crown court for the trial of Sarah Williams who is accused of the murder of Sadie Hartley. PA Wire

"David became slightly agitated and asked her not to say something like that because people believe it.

"He was really worried it would be carried through."

He said Williams confided in him about her affair with ski instructor Mr Johnston.

Mr Savery said he believed she was "infatuated" with him, while he told the police she was "a bizarre character", "unhinged" and "psychotic".

Sadie Hartley, as Sarah Williams is appearing at Preston Crown Court accused of her murder. Lancashire Constabulary/PA Wire
Sadie Hartley, as Sarah Williams is appearing at Preston Crown Court accused of her murder. Lancashire Constabulary/PA Wire

A month before the murder he attended a Christmas party at the Castle in the Air pub, next to Chill Factore, along with Williams, Mr Johnston and Ms Hartley.

He said Williams told him she had been speaking to Mr Johnston at the bar of the Alpine-themed pub.

Mr Savery said: "She said 'Ian is going to get into big trouble talking to me and if she has a go at me I will smack her'."

Natalie Chapman, a colleague of Williams at Crystal Ski Holidays - situated at the main entrance of Chill Factore - said the defendant told her that Ms Hartley had asked Mr Johnston to leave the party after seeing the chat at the bar but he refused and Ms Hartley left.

Williams, of Treborth Road, Blacon, Chester, and her co-defendant, Katrina Walsh, 56, of Hare Lane, Chester, deny murder.

Horse riding instructor Walsh is alleged to have aided her friend's "murderous mission".

Ms Chapman said Williams had told her she was in love with Mr Johnston, wanted to marry him and, although she had never wanted children, would do so with him.

The court heard that Williams's lover was a regular topic of conversation between them.

She said Williams told of an evening she spent with Mr Johnston after she drove to his house at short notice but he did not want to let her in so she "barged in, sat down on his sofa, started to cry and refused to leave".

After Mr Johnston left the house for a pre-arranged visit, Williams said she got undressed and waited in bed for his return.

The next day at work, said Ms Chapman, Williams told her she was "walking bow-legged" and "said something about exhaustion".

In May 2015, the defendant told her workmate she had seen a photograph of Mr Johnston on Facebook in which he was wearing a top she had bought him.

Williams messaged Ms Chapman: "I'm smiling like someone who is ever so slightly mentally ill."

Later that year, Williams told her of a meeting she had with Mr Johnston in the car park of the Castle In The Air pub.

Ms Chapman said: "She was very excited because she had seen Ian.

"He was sat in the car. He had the door open and he touched her on the arm. She said she wouldn't wash because of the contact."

Two days after the murder, Williams came in for her normal work shift at Crystal Ski Holidays after taking the previous day off sick.

Ms Chapman said Williams said she was feeling better and seemed her "normal self".

She said the defendant said she was "definitely" going to make a date to see Mr Johnston when they both returned from overseas trips.

John McDermott QC asked the witness: "Was there any mention of Sadie Hartley."

Ms Chapman replied: "I asked if he had broken up with this lady. She just said he will have to just deal with that himself."

The prosecutor asked if she recalled Williams ever becoming angry.

Ms Chapman said: "One time one of her customers had booked a holiday online. She came to the back office, slammed down her mug and said 'f****** customers'."

Another workmate of Williams said the defendant was "still in love" with Mr Johnston, and that Williams described Ms Hartley as "the bitch troll".

Nicola Botham said that on one occasion Williams told her she and Mr Johnston had exchanged "dirty texts", and during a Facebook conversation about him involving a kitchen table and ropes, the defendant had commented: "That table's big enough for all sorts ... Oh he's so manly."

Ms Botham told of further conversations where Williams described getting "one unsolicited text" from Mr Johnston as the "Holy Grail", and went on to reveal the pair had an hour-long text conversation.

The exchange was prompted after Williams dressed up for the funeral of a mutual friend that she knew Mr Johnston was also attending.

Williams later told Ms Botham: "It appears the dress did work and the eye meet in the church."

Ms Botham added: "Ian was looking at her and when she made eye contact with him in the church he did not look away."

Tony Cross QC, defending Walsh, said it was obvious Williams wanted to be with Mr Johnston and did not speak about her boyfriend, Mr Hardwick, in the same way.

Mr Cross added: "He was just her sugar daddy wasn't he?"

Ms Botham replied: "Yes."

Malcolm Evans told the jury he had been on group skiing holidays with Williams and Mr Hardwick.

He was asked about one occasion when Williams had a row with someone in their group, lost her temper and became "extremely angry".

Mr Evans said: "I saw that her demeanour was one of intense anger. The word that came to mind then, and now, is feral."

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