Friday 9 December 2016

Woman accused of murdering love rival with stun gun in 'orgy of violence' denies charge

Pat Hurst

Published 03/08/2016 | 17:26

Sadie Hartley, 60, who was allegedly murdered at her front door
Sadie Hartley, 60, who was allegedly murdered at her front door

A woman accused of murdering a love rival with a stun gun in an "orgy of violence" has told a court she did not do it.

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Sarah Williams, 35, is on trial for the murder of businesswoman Sadie Hartley, 60, who the prosecution allege she killed after former boyfriend Ian Johnston dumped her.

Williams, wearing a dark business suit over a white top, sipped water as she gave evidence in the witness box, watched closely by Ms Hartley's two children, Charlotte, 22 and Harry, 23, who were sitting in the public gallery of Preston Crown Court.

She is accused of plotting to kill Ms Hartley for 17 months with co-accused Katrina Walsh, 56, after becoming "obsessed" with ex-fireman Mr Johnston, 57, who was in a relationship with the victim.

The prosecution allege that Williams, who at the time was a "kept woman" with a wealthy "sugar daddy" boyfriend twice her age, turned up at the £500,000 home Mr Johnston shared with Ms Hartley in the village of Helmshore, Lancashire, while Mr Johnston was abroad skiing.

When Ms Hartley answered the door Williams allegedly attacked her with "demonic savagery", using a 500,000-volt stun gun to paralyse her before stabbing her 40 times.

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

The defendant and Walsh, both from Chester, deny murder on January 14.

Read more: Woman accused of stun gun murder had affair with married ski instructor who broke it off after she got 'too close'

Gordon Cole QC, defending Williams, warned the defendant she would be in the witness box "for some time" as he began questioning her on Wednesday.

Addressing Ms Williams, Mr Cole said: "Have you ever given evidence in court before? Have you ever been in trouble before? Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offence before?"

The defendant replied "no" to each question.

The lawyer then asked: "Did you kill Sadie Hartley."

Williams replied: "No."

Williams, a ski holiday firm sales adviser, met Mr Johnston on the slopes at the Chill Factore, an artificial slope in Manchester, where they both enjoyed skiing.

Somapat Sitiwatjana and his wife Janet Sitiwatjana arrive at Preston Crown Court to give evidence in the trial of Sarah Williams who is accused of the murder of Sadie Hartley
Somapat Sitiwatjana and his wife Janet Sitiwatjana arrive at Preston Crown Court to give evidence in the trial of Sarah Williams who is accused of the murder of Sadie Hartley

Text exchanges turned "flirty" and Williams later turned up at his house wearing a short skirt and red high heels, and the relationship quickly became sexual.

The jury has heard that Mr Johnston ended the "heavy" relationship with "clingy" Williams after she became obsessed with him and started a new relationship with Ms Hartley - though sex with the defendant continued.

Williams, who described herself to friends as a "She-Devil" and "psycho", and whom friends described as a "bunny boiler", called Ms Hartley a "bitch" and sent her a "spiteful" letter telling of the "fantastic" sex she was having with her boyfriend.

Mr Cole on Wednesday asked Williams to describe her "general character".

The witness replied: "I'm quite easy-going, I can get on with people relatively easily."

Mr Cole continued: "How about aggressive? Saying things about people?"

"No, I would not say I'm aggressive at all."

Mr Cole said: "Use of the word 'bitch'?"

Williams replied: "Yes. It's in my vocabulary if I'm being critical."

Williams told the court she worked in sales jobs after leaving school at 18, and had a long- standing interest in horse riding and skiing.

With the financial help of Mr Hardwick she had three houses on mortgages, renting out one as a landlady.

Williams also told the jury that, aged 13, while cycling back from a riding school, she was grabbed by a man in a car, thrown in the boot, abducted for six hours and assaulted.

The culprits have never been found, the court heard.

Read more: Ex-fireman admits swapping explicit sex texts with former girlfriend before she allegedly killed his new partner, court hears

When she was 17 she met Mr Hardwick, and, though he was 57 at the time, through a mutual love of horses, a relationship developed and she fell in love.

He gave her a monthly allowance, free fuel for her car, skiing holidays and a £75,000 deposit for one house, the court heard.

Mr Cole said: "Was the fact that he was married ever a problem?"

Williams replied: "Depends how you define problem. It was not a massive issue, but obviously it was there."

Williams was asked about her co-accused, horse riding instructor Walsh, who it is alleged was not present when the victim was killed but was "up to her neck" in the murder plot.

Williams said: "She's well-educated, extremely intelligent, eccentric. Very different from the norm, if you can define the norm."

Williams is alleged to have tried to recruit Walsh's ex-husband, Kevin Walsh, while planning the "perfect murder".

But after she asked to meet him, he backed out, suspecting the defendant was up to something "dodgy".

But on Wednesday Williams said that, while Mr Walsh was an "acquaintance", she flatly denied the prosecution claims.

She said the last time she saw and spoke to Mr Walsh was nine years ago.

Williams admitted that, while enjoying foreign holidays with David Hardwick, 75, she had an "intense, passionate" relationship with Somapat Sitiwitjana, 47, a married Thai martial arts instructer, known as Master A, between June 2011 and April 2012.

She said Mr Hardwick was told about the relationship before it started and it was something which was "agreed" but Mr Hardwick later became "less happy with".

Williams said she and Master A, who runs a gym in Manchester's Northern Quarter, restarted their relationship in the summer of 2013 but it finally ended because she did not believe he was "trustworthy".

She denied following Master A, also a ski instructor, after the final break-up and instead tried to avoid him if possible.

She admitted using a matchstick to let down his car tyres in the Chill Factore car park after "he had been giving me grief and following me around on the slope".

Williams said it was Mr Hardwick's idea to damage the tyres.

She denied she planned to put foam in Mr Sitiwatjana's car exhaust pipe.

The jury has previously heard that Mr Sitiwatjana's wife, Janet, found about the affair when Williams visited her home in May 2012.

About two weeks later, a letter was sent to Mrs Sitiwatjana which detailed their relationship in full after Williams thought Master A was cheating on her with a younger woman.

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

The letter began: "Dear Janet, I think you should know about the sort of scumbag you are married to..."

Asked why she had sent the letter, Williams told the court: "Things had degenerated to such a point with 'A' at this time and his treatment of me and other people was so appalling. I suspected from things he said to me that he had told numerous lies, I thought that she should know."

She agreed with Mr Cole that she had written in the letter about being pregnant by him.

Mr Cole asked: "Were you pregnant?"

Williams said: "I didn't know whether I was or not but potentially I could have been."

She said she had sent a baby scan image to Mr Sitiwatjana but told the court the picture was actually that of a friend's baby.

In the letter Williams also wrote "You may think I am a bitter and vengeful bitch..."

Mr Cole asked: "Were you bitter?"

"Yes," she replied.

Her barrister said: "And vengeful?"

Williams said: "The letter was probably vengeful in a way."

In September 2012, Mrs Sitiwatjana said she reported Williams to the police with claims that she was harassing her with unwanted texts and visits to her home, where she would "stare" at her from a car parked on the other side of the road.

Williams denied she ever returned to the address and said she had not sent harassing texts.

She said she had never received a message from police asking her to cease such texts.

Williams said she and Mr Johnston first came into contact while skiing at the Chill Factore in 2011, but they only had the odd chat on the slopes at the time.

But in 2013 they began "liking" each other's photos on Facebook and began to exchange messages, first having sex in September 2013 at his house.

Mr Cole asked: "Were you aware of him being in a relationship with Sadie Hartley?"

Williams replied: "Yes. He told me about it."

"Did you fall for him?" Mr Cole asked.

"Yes," replied Williams.

Read more: Woman sent 'sex' letter to ex's new partner before 'demonic' killing - trial hears

Ms Hartley then went on a three-month trip to Ecuador with Mr Johnston.

Williams continued: "He referred quite a lot to the cost of it. He told me it was Sadie paying for it. He talked about the financial disparity between them.

"He mentioned on a number of occasions he was concerned about whether he was going down the wrong road in his life and going in the wrong direction by continuing to have a relationship with her."

Sexually explicit messages were exchanged between them while he was away on the trip with Ms Hartley, and the day after he arrived back they had sex.

Later the pair, accompanied by their partners, Ms Hartley and Mr Hardwick, went on a skiing holiday to France together in December 2013. Neither of the other partners were aware of what was going on.

Williams and Mr Hardwick then went on a three-month skiing holiday to Whistler in Canada but she agreed "at times" she hoped her future would be with Mr Johnston.

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