Saturday 20 April 2019

Daughter leaps from the dock in bid to confront mother's killer

Charlotte and her late mother Jayne Toal Reat
Charlotte and her late mother Jayne Toal Reat

Paul Higgins

The heartbroken daughter of Jayne Toal Reat had to be held back from confronting her mother's killer as he was jailed for at least 17 years yesterday.

Charlotte Reat reacted as Nathan Ward (20) was told it will be 2034 before he is even considered for release.

Ward stabbed Ms Reat to death in a frenzied knife attack in December 2017 after she had caught him sexually assaulting Charlotte.

Imposing the minimum tariff on Ward at Craigavon Crown Court yesterday, Judge Patrick Lynch QC told him: "I emphasise again that this is a minimum term - when, or even if, you are ever safe to be released will be a matter to be determined by the parole commissioners, not before 2034."

The judge said that by murdering Ms Reat and attempting to murder her daughter, Ward had robbed Charlotte of her life and prospects.

He added: "Nothing this court or you can ever do will even begin to undo the damage you have caused her through your own uncontrolled hatreds and passions."

As Ward was being led to the cells to begin his life sentence, a weeping Charlotte jumped over the three foot wooden partition separating the public gallery from the body of the court but was held back by four uniformed police officers.

She shouted at Ward "I will kill you", before being comforted by friends and relatives who had packed the public gallery.

Ward, wearing a black t-shirt and blue tracksuit bottoms, showed no emotion.

At an earlier hearing Ward had admitted the murder of Ms Reat, a 43-year-old psychiatric nurse; the attempted murder of Charlotte and wounding his father Joseph Tweedie with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm on Christmas Day 2017.

It can now be revealed that Ward also confessed to three counts of sexually assaulting Charlotte: twice on December 9 after she celebrated her 21st birthday and again on Christmas Day.

It was after the sexual assault at 5.17am on Christmas morning, which was interrupted by Jayne Reat, that Ward launched his murderous attack with a nine inch combat knife that had been bought online.

The court previously heard that while on bail for a separate offence, Ward had moved into his father's home at Mornington Lane in Lisburn.

Yesterday Judge Lynch said he appeared "to have had an unhealthy sexual obsession with Charlotte, not reciprocated, which, in part at any rate, underlies the tragic events giving rise to the Christmas day murder".

Describing a normal Christmas Eve, the judge said Charlotte, the deceased and Mr Tweedie had been out then went home and to bed at around 1am.

The sleeping arrangements were that Ms Reat and her daughter were in one bedroom with Mr Tweedie and Ward in the other. But at around 5am, Ward went into the women's bedroom, dressed in boxer shorts, armed with the knife, and began to sexually assault the sleeping Charlotte.

Ms Reat woke up and said "what the f***," waking Charlotte up, the judge said.

Judge Lynch said the "inference to be drawn is that she had seen the defendant in the room and if not specifically aware that he was abusing her daughter, knew that something was seriously amiss".

The court heard how Ward then pounced on Ms Reat, who tried to protect herself.

A statement from her daughter said: "She let the most painful scream out. Nathan was stabbing her and stabbing her, but I did not see the knife."

Charlotte described how Ward then went for her.

She said: "I tried to defend myself by lying on my back, kicking and punching him. He grabbed my hands. I didn't know he had a knife. He got me on the side of the face."

Awoken by the screaming, Mr Tweedie ran into the room to intervene.

Ward then turned the knife on his father, and he suffered cuts to the forehead and stomach.

Mr Tweedie had said: "I was able to overpower Nathan and grab the knife from him and threw it to the ground and he calmed down, just sort of changed and said 'it wasn't me daddy I don't know what I'm doing, I don't know what I'm doing, it's not me. I don't know what I'm doing'."

Charlotte fled the room but shortly "returned to where her mortally wounded mother was".

The judge said: "Charlotte described how she hugged and hugged her mother and tried so hard to bring her back."

Ms Reat had been stabbed seven times but according to the pathology report, two wounds which severed her aorta, the main blood vessel in the body, and her spinal cord "caused her very rapid death".

Turning to Charlotte's injuries, the judge said that she had suffered multiple cuts to her head and face which required stitching.

He later said: "It is clear that this young woman has been scarred, both physically and mentally for life."

Mr Tweedie also suffered cuts to his head and abdomen and Judge Lynch said that in his victim impact report, Mr Tweedie describes how he "feels guilty for bringing the defendant into the home and thereby inadvertently and indirectly bringing about Jayne's death".

"He has lost his partner, son and indeed Charlotte, who blames him, in part, for what happened," the judge said.

Ward himself had suffered cuts to his hands as he had tried to use the broken blade to carry on the attack.

Turning to the police enquiry, Judge Lynch told the court that during questioning, Ward told detectives he had been in "what he described as a psychotic episode".

He had been drinking Jack Daniels in his room, thinking about the "horrific relationship" he had with Ms Reat and his father and "thinking over what he was originally supposed to do which was 'obviously kill 'em'".

He confessed he had gone to the bedroom with the knife "not knowing if he was going to kill Ms Reat or Joseph Tweedie" but to "test himself" to see if he still had "that anger inside him or if he still had the urge to...go through with murder".

Angry at the way Ms Reat supposedly treated him, Ward had admitted that he had been thinking about killing her for some six months and had bought two machetes, the murder weapon, duct tape, handcuffs and a Soviet gas mask.

"He stated he was originally going to use the handcuffs, as most of his hatred was directed at Jayne and he was going to use the items for trapping her and torturing her with either the knife or the machete," the judge continued.

Ward told police that when Ms Reat had woken up and challenged him, he "just snapped".

The judge told Ward that the murder was aggravated by the fact that his victim had been asleep and vulnerable in her own home and the gratuitous violence used in the attacks and that the killing was carried out "to defeat the ends of justice" by seeking to kill the two witnesses to his sexual assault of Charlotte.

In mitigation, the judge said that Ward was 19 at the time of the murder, had expressed remorse and was due some credit for pleading guilty, although he added that Ward "had no option but to accept them".

Jailing Ward for at least 17 years, Judge Lynch told the killer the sentence would have been 20 years if he had been convicted after a trial.

The judge also imposed 12 years for the attempted murder of Charlotte, five years for wounding his father and five years for the three sexual assaults, with all those sentences to be served concurrently to the life term.

Ward will also be put on the sexual offences notification requirements list for an indefinite period, the court heard.

Belfast Telegraph

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