Wednesday 22 January 2020

Obsessed ex-boyfriend found guilty of murdering teenager and torching her room

Shana Grice. Picture: Facebook
Shana Grice. Picture: Facebook

Tom Pugh

An obsessed stalker who placed a tracker device on his former girlfriend's car has been found guilty of murdering her and torching her room.

Shana Grice (19) was found with her throat slashed in her smoke-logged bedroom at the bungalow she shared with two housemates in Brighton, East Sussex.

Her jilted ex-boyfriend, Michael Lane (27) waited until she was home alone before murdering her last August 25 after she decided to rekindle a relationship with her ex-boyfriend, Ashley Cooke.

Police received a number of complaints about Lane's behaviour towards Miss Grice, but on one occasion she ended up with a fixed penalty notice for wasting police time.

A two-week trial at Lewes Crown Court heard that Lane refused to accept their break-up and decided no-one else could be with her, telling a friend: "She'll pay for what she's done."

Mechanic Lane, of Thornhill Rise, Portslade, claimed he innocently found her body and left her home without raising the alarm as he was in shock. But jurors convicted him of murder.

Michael Lane arrives by van at Lewes Crown Court, where he is accused of the murder of Shana Grice, whose body was discovered at her house in Chrisdory Road, Brighton. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Michael Lane arrives by van at Lewes Crown Court, where he is accused of the murder of Shana Grice, whose body was discovered at her house in Chrisdory Road, Brighton. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

There were claps and cheers in court when the jury returned its verdict after just over two hours of deliberation.

In the months before she died, Lane had been stalking Miss Grice, the trial heard.

He put a tracker device on her car and received notifications via a phone app every time it moved.

Prosecutor Philip Bennetts QC said Lane became "obsessed" with Miss Grice after forming a relationship with her in 2015 while they both worked at Brighton Fire Alarms.

He told jurors: "During their relationship, he stalked her. He put a tracker on her car and followed her movements. That obsession with her translated into killing her. He would not allow anyone else to be with her."

Miss Grice complained about her tyres repeatedly being let down, of receiving heavy breathing phone calls from withheld numbers and of Lane following her.

Lane also targeted Mr Cooke by placing a note on his car which read: "Dear Ash, Shana has and always will cheat on you. Happy New Year."

Sussex Police will now face questions after it emerged that officers were called at least four times about Lane in the months before the murder.

Shana Grice. Picture: Facebook
Shana Grice. Picture: Facebook

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it is carrying out an inquiry into the contact between Lane, Miss Grice and the Sussex force.

An IPCC spokesman said investigators had already quizzed a number of witnesses and extra interviews would now take place with police officers and staff.

It emerged during the trial that police received a complaint that Lane had pulled Miss Grice's hair and grabbed her mobile phone five months before she was killed.

No further action was taken against Lane, but Miss Grice received a fixed penalty notice for wasting police time after not disclosing she had been in a relationship with him.

On another occasion, Lane was cautioned by police after stealing her back door key and letting himself in to her room, before watching her sleeping and then leaving.

Miss Grice hid under her duvet as she heard footsteps and then a man breathing in her room last July 9. When she looked out of her window, she saw Lane walking away from her home.

Miss Grice confronted Lane about the incident in a secretly-recorded phone call played to jurors, telling him his behaviour was "just weird".

A tearful and apologetic Lane told her: "Obviously something's not right in my head and I don't know what it is but I know I need to find out or be locked up or something."

Two days before Miss Grice was killed, she met Lane at a hotel in Hove to insist their relationship was over. Lane claimed they had sex earlier that day.

The evening before Lane killed her, he filled a red petrol can with fuel at a Sainsbury's in Hove. He claimed he bought it to kill himself due to depression sparked by his grandfather's death.

But prosecutors said there were suggestions that an ignitable liquid was used to torch Miss Grice's room. One fire was set on the double bed and another on carpet at the foot of the bed.

She was found dead, face down on her bed, in the smoke-filled room by Mr Cooke's father, Ian Cooke, after colleagues reported that she had failed to arrive at work.

Lane dismantled the smoke alarm in the hallway and disposed of broken pieces of it under her bed in Chrisdory Road in the Mile Oak area of Brighton.

Following the killing, Lane withdrew £60 (€69) from Miss Grice's bank account and later went to a McColl's store to check a lottery ticket.

He then went to work at SE Tyres in Burgess Hill, where he was arrested. As he was held, he simply said "Murder" and made no further comment.

Lane told a series of lies in interviews, including that he had not been to Miss Grice's home on the day of her murder. He later admitted he had to check why she had not gone to work.

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