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Monday 19 March 2018

Ex-boyfriend given life sentence for "remorseless" murder of mother-of-two

Cope strangled and beat Ms Ashton, who suffered 108 separate injuries in an hour-long attack at her home, Manchester Crown Court heard
Cope strangled and beat Ms Ashton, who suffered 108 separate injuries in an hour-long attack at her home, Manchester Crown Court heard
Michael Cope, 28, has been jailed for life for the "remorseless" murder of his ex-girlfriend Linzi Ashton

A jealous and paranoid ex-boyfriend has been jailed for life for the "remorseless" murder of a mother-of-two.

Michael Cope, 28, strangled and beat Linzi Ashton, who suffered 108 separate injuries in an hour-long attack at her home, Manchester Crown Court heard.

He then went on the run, evading police for a month.

Miss Ashton, 25, a barmaid and mother to Destiny and Daisy, aged seven and two, had taken her boyfriend back despite suffering prolonged domestic abuse for months.

Cope had twice tried to strangle her and she had been warned by a friend just months earlier: "He's going to end up killing you."

She had also accused him of rape and eventually reported him to police.

But he talked her into retracting the statement and the pair continued the relationship in secret from her family.

She paid with her life, suffering the "ultimate form of domestic abuse", the court heard.

During a "prolonged, extremely violent and determined attack", Kate Blackwell QC, prosecuting, said Miss Ashton had been punched, kicked, stamped on, cut with a blade, beaten with a metal pole and strangled with a cable tie.

Her battered body was found the next day, the rooms spattered with her own blood, at her house in Winton, Salford, on June 29 last year.

Around 40 members of her family and friends wept as the court was told of the more than 100 injuries she suffered while being beaten and strangled to death.

Cope, from Salford, was arrested a month later. He admitted murder and three counts of assault yesterday and was today jailed for life. A single charge of rape was ordered to lie on file.

He was told he must serve a minimum of 27 years before being considered for parole.

Members of Miss Ashton's family burst into shouts of "Yes!" and cheered as the sentence was passed.

Cope smiled and turned towards the public gallery but, as he was taken down, male members of Miss Ashton's family rushed towards him, punching the reinforced glass dock and shouting: "Rot in hell, you dirty f****** rat!"

Miss Ashton's mother, sisters and other relatives stood shaking and in tears, one saying: "It's still not enough."

Passing sentence, Mr Justice Parker told Cope: "You set out in a most deliberate and calculating manner to kill your victim.

"This was a savage and sustained attack on a defenceless woman in her own home.

"The injuries that were caused, in part in all probability by use of a weapon, that I have recounted, were truly horrific and it is difficult to imagine the suffering, mental and physical, she must have endured as you brutally beat her to death.

"You violently took the life of a young mother, who had the care of two small children."

Earlier, the court heard that Cope was wanted by police over the rape allegation when Miss Ashton began seeing him again and he talked her into retracting her statement.

On June 28 they spent the evening at a friend's house, drinking and watching TV, before leaving for Miss Ashton's home at 2am.

Half an hour after they got in, a neighbour heard a row.

"It seemed as if the male had hold of the female around the neck and was strangling her," the neighbour told police.

"Her voice was in bits and breaking as though he's choking and strangling her."

Miss Blackwell continued: "It was a prolonged, extremely violent and determined attack.

"Miss Ashton's blood was splattered across the walls of both upstairs and downstairs rooms."

Cope left her battered body lying half in and half out of her bed - it was discovered by her worried family the next day after they failed to contact her.

Some of Miss Ashton's relatives covered their ears in court as her injuries were detailed, including a fractured right arm, left elbow, broken nose, broken chin bone, bruises and cuts across her head and body and ligature marks around her neck.

Miss Blackwell said the couple had been in a relationship since November 2012 but from early on Miss Ashton suffered "deliberate, extensive and sustained domestic abuse".

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