Man jailed for 32 years for murdering supermarket worker as she tended horses
A man has been jailed for a minimum of 32 years for stabbing to death a mother-of-five as she tended her horses after he was recruited to stop her making an accusation about a sexual assault.
Supermarket worker Pennie Davis, 47, was found dead by her husband on September 2 in a field at Leygreen Farm in Beaulieu, Hampshire.
Justin Robertson, 36, was jailed for life after he was found guilty of murder and conspiracy to murder following a six-week trial at Winchester Crown Court.
Jurors heard that Robertson agreed to kill Ms Davis for Benjamin Carr, 22, the son of Ms Davis's ex-lover, to stop her telling police that he had allegedly sexually assaulted someone when he was 14.
Carr, of Edward Road, Southampton, was found guilty of conspiracy to murder.
Co-defendant Samantha Maclean, 28, of Beech Crescent, Hythe, was found not guilty of the same charge.
Robertson gave no reaction as his verdict was read out, but clapped his hands together when Ms Maclean was acquitted.
She wiped tears from her eyes, while Carr stared straight ahead.
A fourth person, Robertson's girlfriend, Lian Doyle, 24, of Beech Crescent, Hythe, earlier pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice after she disposed of his shoes, it can now be reported.
Mrs Davis, who had only recently married new husband Peter Davis, was alone in a small paddock in a field tending her horses when she was fatally stabbed.
The trial heard that Mrs Davis knew Carr because she had been in a relationship with his father Timothy from about 2006 to 2012.
Prosecutor Richard Smith QC said Benjamin Carr harboured a "lasting hate and anger" towards Mrs Davis after she made a complaint to police about allegations of sexual assault against him when he was 14.
Mr Smith said police took no further action over the complaint and added that Carr "strenuously and consistently" denied the allegations.
But the accusations left Carr with a "lasting sense of animosity, hatred, towards Pennie Davis" which, according to prosecutors, didn't "wear off".
Mr Smith said Mrs Davis repeated the allegations against Carr in August last year after she found out that Timothy Carr was to marry his new partner, Alison Macintyre.
Mrs Davis sent Facebook messages to Ms Macintyre, saying one of the alleged victims of Carr would be making a statement to police.
Mrs Davis wrote in one message: "Good luck, you will need it," and in another: "I can't forgive him, all the shit he gave me, I f****** hate him and all his family."
Mr Smith told jurors: "The truth of those allegations matter not a jot. When you are simply accused of something like that it touches, in the most difficult way, all parts of your life.
"Ben Carr was going potentially to be labelled. People do not look beyond the allegation - it affects your relationships, it affects your own thoughts, it affects job opportunities. The list is endless and hugely important. It goes on and on.
"Ben Carr, having said from the outset so very clearly and passionately they were not true, being falsely accused of something would have instilled in him an even greater anger and bitterness, you may think.
"So Ben Carr came to the conclusion that killing Pennie Davis was the only means to bring those potential allegations to an end."
Carr promised Robertson £1,500 for the killing, which he agreed to carry out for "money and a misguided sense of right and wrong", Mr Smith said.
Mrs Davis, who had five children from previous relationships, suffered 13 stab wounds caused by 10 individual strikes, he added.
Police linked Robertson to the murder scene after he dropped the keys to Maclean's Vauxhall Zafira car in the field and they were later found by officers searching the area.
Giving evidence, Carr said he only wanted to "scare" Mrs Davis and did not intend for any physical violence to be used against her.
He told jurors: "Physical words, no actual physical violence, to warn her to back away from me and my family and the wedding."
Describing the payment to Robertson, Carr said: "We talked about £1,500 of false money and that was how it was going to be at first because they have some value on the street.
"That changed later on through the week because he didn't want the fake currency - he wanted real money and £400 cash and a quarter of cocaine."
Carr added: "In his words 'It's easy work'."
Carr said he organised to be with friends and to visit places with CCTV cameras so he would have an alibi at the time of the confrontation.
Robertson said he agreed to help because he had been told by Carr that he was sexually abused by Mrs Davis as a child.
Carr denied this and said he had not described her as a "nonce", adding that he had only told Robertson: "She's ruined my life, she brought up these allegations, made them up, yeah, ruined my life.
"I told him about the history between us, that she hadn't been a nice person to me during my childhood."
Analysis of phone records and geo-location technology, which locates phones from the masts that they connect to, showed that Robertson carried out reconnaissance missions before the killing.
Mrs Davis was followed from her work at a Sainsbury's supermarket in her home town of Blackfield to the field near Beaulieu where she kept her horses.
Robertson later confessed to a friend and "justified" his actions by saying that he believed his victim was a "nonce".
He then went to stay with friends near Salisbury before going to stay with his brother in Gloucester before he handed himself in.
Maclean said in police interview that her phone, which had been used to contact Carr following the murder, had been lost and then later said she had lent it to Robertson and answered no comment to other questions.
Mrs Davis's family said in a statement: "The people responsible for our mum's brutal murder have been convicted but we cannot celebrate.
"It is not them, but us, Pennie's family, who have been given the real life sentence. The life of someone precious to us as a mother, daughter, wife and sister has gone and can't be replaced.
"We have attended court every day and have had to listen to many lies about Pennie, who has been robbed of her voice to defend herself.
"The Pennie presented in court by those who were desperate to try to justify their actions is not the Pennie we remember. For us she will always be our warm, loving, protective, determined, funny mum who loved her children more than anything.
"We appreciate the thorough police investigation, the dedication of the jury and all those involved in this lengthy court case and especially the people who bravely came to court to give evidence.
"We also want to thank the many people who have sent us love and good wishes throughout this ordeal. The outpouring of grief at her death is the best and most faithful tribute to her memory and will not be erased."
Detective Superintendent Paul Barton, of Hampshire Police, said outside court: "Pennie was a loving mother who doted on all her children and was just starting a new chapter in her life with husband Pete.
"Her death brought together the local community and I would like to thank everyone who supported our investigation and came forward with information.
"Pennie's murder must have come as to a shock to many, particularly those who saw our armed response in the following days as we searched for Justin Robertson, who went on the run, as our prime suspect.
"The pressure we put on him meant he eventually did the right thing and handed himself in.
"Pennie's body was found by her husband in the field where she tended her horses. This remote location was a challenge for the investigation team who worked hard to piece together the events leading to her death and the evidence needed to place Robertson at the scene and secure a conviction.
"Both Robertson and Ben Carr denied their involvement but our investigation linked the men and proved they plotted together to have Pennie killed.
"Robertson is an evil and cold killer who was motivated by a relatively small amount of money. His lies through this trial were evident to the jury.
"Carr had a long-term hatred for Pennie. He tried to silence her once and for all and knew Robertson would do anything for money.
"We never accepted his defence that he only wanted Pennie 'frightened off,' and neither did the jury.
"Carr planned her death in detail, ensuring he was out of the way at the time and had an alibi. This cold, calculated plan, in my view, makes him just as evil as Robertson.
"Both have now been found guilty and are facing the prospect of a lengthy jail term.
"Pennie's family have shown complete restraint throughout as they have had to listen to lies about her during the trial. I would like to pay tribute to them and hope they can now seek some sort of closure following this painful experience."
John Montague, senior district crown prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service, said this was is a tragic case where a mother-of-five who has just remarried died from a savage pre-planned execution.
"Her husband, Peter, made the terrible discovery when he found her dead near the horses that she loved so much," he added.
"Our thoughts are with him, Mrs Davis' children and extended family."