A MAN on trial accused of murdering a Bridlington guest house landlady has committed suicide while waiting for the jury to reach a verdict.
John Heald, 53, was on trial at Hull Crown Court accused of murdering Bei Carter and raping another woman.
Judge Jeremy Richardson QC told the jury that Heald was found dead at Hull Prison last night.
The jury in the nine-day trial retired to consider its verdict yesterday afternoon.
Judge Richardson discharged the eight men and four women this afternoon.
He told them: “Ladies and gentlemen, I am now in a position to put you fully in the picture.
“The defendant committed suicide last night. I was advised this morning and I have heard some evidence about it in your absence to confirm that he is deceased.
“You are thus discharged of course from any further deliberation in this case and an appropriate order will be made.
“I can see from your faces that comes as quite a shock. It came as a shock to me this morning.”
Earlier, a detective from Humberside Police confirmed the death of Heald - who had previously been described to the jury as “suicidal”.
Detective Chief Inspector Matthew Baldwin told the court: “At 10.40 hours this morning I attended I wing at Hull Prison where I saw a male I know to be John Heald.
“I can confirm that he is deceased having hung (sic) himself during the night.”
A Prison Service spokesman said: “John Heald was found unresponsive in his cell at Hull prison at about 5.50am today.
“Paramedics attended but he was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.
“Every self-inflicted death is a tragedy and we make strenuous efforts to learn from each one.
“As with all deaths, the independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman will conduct an investigation.”
The court had been told that Heald, of Foljambe Road, Rotherham, was manipulative, controlling, and told lies “at every opportunity”.
It was suggested that when he arrived at the Morayland Hotel in Bridlington he was “pretty out of control” drinking heavily and Mrs Carter “got in the way.”
Heald, who was finally arrested after hiding out in a wood, said he had attempted suicide over three nights by swallowing more than 300 tablets. He told the court: “I didn’t want to live, I still don’t.” He said he was on his way to buy more tablets when he was recognised by a police officer and arrested.
Heald claimed he accidentally stabbed Mrs Carter, who was 5ft 5ins and weighed nine stone, while in a panic over people he thought had come looking for him after reading about the rapes on Facebook. But the police never released the information until after Mrs Carter’s death nor could he explain why there were three overlying shoemarks on Mrs Carter’s face which had fractured her hyoid bone, saying he had “stumbled” on her.
Asked how the 18cm blade went through Mrs Carter’s breastbone and into her aorta, Heald told the jury: “I don’t know. I am trying to wonder how it happened. It happened that quickly.”
He also had “no idea” why his rape victim, a woman he knew, had a swelling to the side of her face, claiming that her lip, lacerated in two places, was as a result of kissing too hard.
Under cross-examination he admitted Mrs Carter - described by her husband as “too trusting” - screamed as she collapsed, and he then dragged her into a room, locking the door and hiding the keys under his mattress.
He then went to the station and caught a train, texting his friend that he had “ended up stabbing a...woman” who had got in his way.
Prosecutor Graham Reeds QC said on the 10-minute walk to the station Heald could have called 999 anonymously - to which Heald replied: “I didn’t know the name of the street or the hotel.”
As Heald tried to sidestep questions Mr Reeds said: “You lie at every opportunity and when you are found out you tell more lies.”
Mrs Carter’s husband Terry sat with family in the court throughout the evidence. In a statement read to the jury, he said his wife, with whom he had two daughters, had been a “fantastic artist” and “perfect partner”. “I couldn’t see her being confrontational with anyone; she would back down, she wouldn’t know what to do, ” said Mr Carter, who added: “She could be vulnerable and too trusting of others.”
Heald claimed he was “devastated” and “regretted” what he had done, saying: “I took someone’s life and shouldn’t have done.” He denied three counts of rape and one count of murder.
Det Chief Insp Baldwin said there would now be a separate investigation into the death of Heald.
Speaking outside Hull Crown Court, he said: “Overnight, the defendant in the case of the murder of Bei Carter has committed suicide in his cell at Hull prison.”
He added: “There will be a separate investigation into the death of John Heald, which will include a post-mortem examination to conclude a cause of death.”
Mr Baldwin said Mrs Carter’s husband, Terry, was “shocked and disappointed” that the trial would not conclude in a verdict.
“It’s a difficult situation. My thoughts are with the victim of the sexual offences John Heald is alleged to have committed and of the family of Bei Carter, who will now not get closure from this process,” he said.
“I think, like myself and everyone else involved in the case, he (Mr Carter) is shocked and disappointed that he won’t receive a conclusion to this trial.
“He has been here and listened to the evidence, he’s very satisfied with the police investigation and he now needs to go away and consider the circumstances.”
The detective said Heald’s death ended the investigation into Mrs Carter’s murder.
He said: “It was a complex investigation. I’m satisfied we did a thorough job of that.
“We brought the correct indictments to the crown court and that John Heald was responsible for the death of Bei Carter.”