Sunday 18 August 2019

Former butcher strangled and decapitated woman because she 'spurned his advances'

Undated handout file photo issued by South Wales Police of Christopher May, who has been given a life sentence with a minimum term of 28 years at Cardiff Crown Court for the murder and dismembering of 47-year-old Tracey Woodford
Undated handout file photo issued by South Wales Police of Christopher May, who has been given a life sentence with a minimum term of 28 years at Cardiff Crown Court for the murder and dismembering of 47-year-old Tracey Woodford
Undated handout file photo issued by South Wales Police of Tracey Woodford, 47, as Cardiff Crown Court has heard that Christopher Nigel May, 50, hid her severed head after murdering her in a dark and secluded underground tunnel

A former butcher who strangled a woman to death before decapitating and dismembering her has been jailed for life.

Christopher Nigel May brutally murdered fragile Tracey Woodford, 47, after she spurned his advances.

Cardiff Crown Court heard steakhouse worker May, who had an eerie fixation with red heads, invited ginger-haired Ms Woodford back to his flat in Pontypridd after meeting her at his local pub a few hours previously.

After choking his victim to death, May then had sex with her dead body and then used a "gruesome collection" of knives to dismember her body.

Two police officers were left shocked and sickened after searching the 50-year-old's flat and finding human arms and legs in a shower cubicle and a torso stuffed in a rucksack.

Ms Woodford's severed head was later found in a secluded underground tunnel - with detectives believing he was keeping it as a souvenir.

High Court judge Mrs Justice Nicola Davies branded May a dangerous sexual predator before handing him a mandatory life sentence with a minimum term of 28 years.

It means the earliest May can hope to be released will be in 2043 - although the judge said the defendant may never be free a man again.

Mrs Justice Davies said: "You have fought this case from start to finish - and remorse has not been a feature of your defence.

"Your murder of Tracey Woodford was cruel, callous and determined.

"These same characteristics prompted you to dismember the body of Tracey and then deliberately conceal it.

"This was done for one reason: to avoid detection for the murder you knew you had committed.

"You embarked on this without little thought for your victim and still less for that of her family whose grief for their daughter and sister was made more anguished by the grim dismemberment of her body."

May's trial heard that he met clinically depressed Ms Woodford in his local pub the Skinny Dog in Pontypridd on April 21 - where bar staff refused to serve her because she was too drunk.

She later went back to May's flat in Andrews Court, Rickard Street, but had told the defendant "she was not that kind of girl" when a hint about sex was dropped.

Although alcoholic Ms Woodford had gone willingly to May's house, the court heard she went back after being offered more drink.

However, May's belief he had "got lucky" was mistaken and he flew into a rage after his attempts to woo his victim with half a pint of cider failed.

After strangling her to death, prosecution counsel Roger Thomas QC said it "was almost certain" the defendant then had sex with Ms Woodford before watching online porn for three hours.

May - described by a former work colleague as a skilled butcher with 18 years experience - then tried to dispose of her body using a stanley knife, scissors and a saw.

Enquiries later led Police Sergeant Stuart Williams and Constable Craig Gardener to May's home - which was described as smelling of "gone off meat".

After a shower curtain was pulled back to reveal human limbs, a visibly upset Mr Gardener said: "I thought I was watching a horror movie."

Her head was found on a ledge 138 metres inside a storm drain close to Pontypridd RFC's Sardis Road ground.

The court also heard that six days before the killing, May made "creepy" comments to a teenage girl saying that "red heads were better in bed" before stroking her fingers.

May had denied murder - claiming that petite Ms Woodford attacked him.

However, jurors took a mere 50 minutes to deliver a guilty verdict on Wednesday.

The victim impact statement of Ms Woodford's elderly mother Linda said her family's life had been torn apart.

Speaking of the time she saw her eldest child for one last time thanks to the careful work of mortuary staff, she said: "I stood over her crying. I didn't know what to do or say.

"I kissed her on the forehead and then I had to leave the room.

"Tracey led a simple life which revolved around her family. She was happy doing her crosswords and wouldn't have hurt a fly. I miss her so much.

"This man has torn my family apart. It's destroyed us. It has totally destroyed us all."

Brother Sean added: "I miss my sister dearly and I will never understand why she was cruelly taken from us."

Mrs Justice Davies praised Ms Woodford's family for the "courage and dignity" they had shown during a two-week trial.

She also gave a formal commendation to South Wales Police's Sgt Williams and Pc Gardener.

In the wake of Ms Woodford's disappearance, May lied to the two officers over the phone about her whereabouts and asked officers could they come back later.

However, the persistent pair turned up at his flat five minutes later before finding the missing woman's body.

A court heard that were it not for the pair's astute police work Ms Woodford may never have been found.

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