Monday 19 February 2018

Hair salon killer Asher Maslin handed life sentence for stabbing ex-girlfriend Hollie Gazzard to death

Hollie Gazzard. Photo: Gloucestershire Police/PA Wire
Hollie Gazzard. Photo: Gloucestershire Police/PA Wire
Asher Maslin, who will be sentenced for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hollie Gazzard. Photo: Gloucestershire Police/PA Wire
Hollie Gazzard, whose ex-boyfriend Asher Maslin has been jailed for her murder. Photo: Gloucestershire Police/PA Wire
A police tent at the front of Fringe Benefits and La Bella Beauty in Southgate Street, Gloucester, where Hollie Gazzard was stabbed to death. Photo: Claire Hayhurst/PA Wire

Two police officers and a call handler have been served with misconduct notices following the murder of a hairdresser at the salon where she worked, the police watchdog said.

Hollie Gazzard, 20, was killed by ex-boyfriend Asher Maslin, 22, while she was working at Fringe Benefit & La Bella Beauty in Gloucester city centre at 5.47pm on February 18.

The former security guard was sentenced to life imprisonment and ordered to serve a minimum of 24 years behind bars at Gloucester Crown Court today.

Mr Justice Teare, jailing Maslin, described the murder as "merciless", with 14 stab wounds inflicted on Miss Gazzard in just one minute and 52 seconds.

The court was told Miss Gazzard ended her year-long relationship with Maslin on February 14 - four days before her death - after suffering repeated violence at his hands.

Police were made aware of two incidents involving Miss Gazzard and Maslin, with the first in July 2013 when CCTV captured him grabbing her by the throat in Gloucester.

On February 15, Miss Gazzard called police to report that Maslin had stolen her bank card and taken £300 from it. Police attempted to arrest Maslin at 9.26pm the following day but were unsuccessful.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has confirmed it is investigating contact between Miss Gazzard and Gloucestershire Police prior to her murder.

A spokesman for the police watchdog said: "As part of the investigation two police officers and a call handler have been served with misconduct notices informing them their actions are under investigation.

"Statements were received from each of the officers, and they along with the call handler have been interviewed by IPCC investigators."

Speaking outside court, Miss Gazzard's family said they "would rather not comment" when asked if her death would have occurred had more police action been taken.

Father Nick Gazzard, a former Cheltenham Town football player, said the family were "satisfied" with the sentence handed to Maslin and felt it had achieved justice.

"We had no expectations but had total faith that the judge would do the right thing by Hollie and make sure that the outcome reflected the horrendous actions of a cowardly individual," he said.

"We feel that the length of sentence handed down today means we finally have received justice for Hollie."

The court heard how Maslin, of Cheltenham, and Miss Gazzard began a relationship in February last year after meeting in a nightclub.

Maslin became violent, first grabbing Miss Gazzard around the throat in July and then hitting her in November. She did not report either incident to police.

However, the "last straw" came in January this year, when Maslin kicked Miss Gazzard and she told him the relationship was over on February 14.

During the break-up, at a hotel, Maslin threw a glass of water over Miss Gazzard and told her: "You need some cold water over your cold heart."

Maslin then stole Miss Gazzard's bank card and used it to withdraw £300. He also sent her abusive text messages threatening her family over the next four days.

In one text, sent the day before Miss Gazzard's death, Maslin texted her: "Hollie ring my phone or call. I don't want to get f****** violent as I'll take it too far.''

Miss Gazzard reported the theft to police on February 15 and contemplated taking out a restraining order to protect herself and her family from Maslin.

In a statement to police the following day, Miss Gazzard gave a statement describing Maslin's violent behaviour towards her during their relationship.

Officers attempted to arrest Maslin that evening but were unable to locate him as he was on a drink, cocaine and crack cocaine binge in London.

He returned to Gloucester and traded in his DVD player for £5 on the afternoon of February 18, using the money to purchase a £3 carving knife from Wilkinson minutes later.

Maslin carried the knife in a plastic bag around the streets by the salon for two hours before entering at 5.47pm and demanding to speak to Miss Gazzard.

Seven people - members of staff and customers - were inside the salon at the time and attempted to protect Miss Gazzard from Maslin before he drew the knife.

Mr Justice Teare said: "The number of stab of wounds on a defenceless young woman show that this was a merciless killing. It was carried out in public, witnessed by customers of the salon, colleagues of Hollie Gazzard and by passers-by.

"Hollie Gazzard was 20 years of age and at the start of her adult life. As her father said, 'the world was at her feet'."

Maslin fled just one minute and 52 seconds after entering - leaving Miss Gazzard lying unresponsive in a pool of blood as her colleagues cowered behind a door.

Officers were on the scene within minutes and desperately tried to save Miss Gazzard but she was declared dead at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital at 6.51pm.

The judge added: "She sustained 14 stab wounds to her neck, back and chest. Her lungs, arteries and heart were wounded."

Maslin was arrested at 2.19am the following day, when he told police: "Sometimes you love too much, she meant the world to me, I didn't mean it to happen."

In emotional victim impact statements read to the court today, Miss Gazzard's father Nick and sister Chloe described their disbelief at Maslin's actions.

Mr Gazzard said his family's lives had been destroyed when they were told "our beloved daughter Hollie" had been stabbed to death.

"We find it impossible to accept Hollie has gone but what is harder for us is the brutal way that she was taken," Mr Gazzard said.

"Our petite, five foot nothing girl - she would never hurt anyone. She would have been so defenceless against someone like him.

"It will haunt us forever to know how scared and frightened Hollie must have been before she died."

Miss Gazzard's sister Chloe, wept as she said: "When I think of how Hollie died it devastates me to think that her tiny little body took so much trauma.

"She was a little girl and so defenceless. I don't want to forget Hollie but at the moment all I can see is what Asher has done to her and I hate him so much.

"Hollie will never be at my wedding, never be there to see my children grow up and likewise I will never be able to share these things with her."

Speaking outside court through a solicitor, Maslin's mother Sam described Miss Gazzard's death as a "tragedy".

"Asher cannot explain why he did what he did," her statement said. "All he can now do is express through us his deeply felt sorrow for the pain which he has caused to so many people."

Detective chief inspector Steve Bean, who led the investigation, said the reaction by the public to Miss Gazzard's murder showed how much she was "loved and admired".

"This horrific and violent attack was a spiteful and cowardly reaction by a self-obsessed individual who couldn't handle rejection," he added.

Maslin, wearing a white shirt and sporting a Travis Bickle-style Mohican haircut, remained emotionless as the sentence was passed.

As he was led to begin his sentence, Maslin nodded to his family and simply said "sorry" to them across the courtroom.

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