A FATHER has been jailed for life for murdering a man in his former girlfriend’s bedroom and later setting fire to his body in a wood in an attempt to cover up his crime.
Jason Lowther stabbed Duane Eddy Coleman, 34, at the home of Natalie Fears in Eggleston Drive, Holme Wood, Bradford in the early hours of May 11.
Jailing him at Leeds Crown Court yesterday, Mr Justice Openshaw said Lowther knew his relationship with Miss Fears, the mother of his children, was over and he was not welcome at her home, particularly at 3am when he was in drink.
Lowther, was said to have been at a wake and when he could not rouse his mother at her address in Peverell Close nearby had decided to sleep at Miss Fears’ home.
When he got no answer at her door he “booted in” a cracked pane of glass in the back door and crawled inside, and made his way upstairs.
Lowther claimed Mr Coleman jumped up and came towards him with a knife he himself had left under the bed on an earlier occasion because he had enemies.
He said he remembered punching him and then “blacking out” and when he came to himself on hearing his young daughter cry in a cot nearby, he saw Mr Coleman on the floor and realised he must have stabbed him.
The judge said having heard evidence from witnesses in a “trial of issue” as to whether Lowther had armed himself before going to the house he concluded he had not taken a knife to the scene but, on seeing another man in his former girlfriend’s bed, had then acquired it.
The judge said he did not accept his account of what had happened, particularly as Lowther had no cuts to his hands. He was satisfied he must have armed himself with the knife in the house and stabbed the other man in the heart in front of his former girlfriend.
“He did it in anger and not in excessive self-defence as he claims.”
The court heard Lowther admitted covering the body in a carpet and taking it to some woodland nearby where he left it until he transported the body in a wheelie bin to Pit Hill Park off Holme Lane, Holme Wood where it was found burning on a bonfire by neighbours who spotted smoke.
Mr Coleman’s badly burnt body was recovered and had to be identified through DNA. Lowther gave himself up to the police.
Lowther, 39, admitted murdering Mr Coleman and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Ordering him to serve a minimum of 18 years, the judge said it was an aggravating feature the murder happened when young children were in the house. Although his baby daughter would have been too young at the time to realise what was happening in the room where she was in a cot “she will grow up with the knowledge of what her own father has done while she was sleeping.”
“Furthermore the eight-year-old was woken by the noise and came upon this dreadful scene.”
Mr Justice Openshaw said it was another aggravating feature that he tried to destroy Mr Coleman’s body by fire, depriving his grieving family of the chance of ever being able to say a proper goodbye. “This does make a terrible deed more terrible still.”
A second defendant Lewis Ibbotson, 33, of Wenborough Lane, Holme Wood, Bradford also admitted doing acts tending to pervert the course of justice.
Timothy Capstick, prosecuting, said Ibbotson accepted he cleaned the bedroom after the murder. A bag of bloodstained bedding and clothes belonging to Mr Coleman were found outside a house in the street where Ibbotson lived.
Jailing Ibbotson for two-and-a -half years, the judge said he accepted he was “weak and easily led” but there had to be a jail term to deter those who would destroy evidence of a murder.
Ibbotson had gone to the blood soaked scene and tried to do what he could to wash the room after the body had been moved. His counsel said he acted out of misguided loyalty to Lowther.
The court heard Lowther and Natalie Fears had an on-off relationship for about five years but had split up some days earlier. She had met Mr Coleman less than a week before and he had been drinking at her home that night.
After the case Detective Superintendent Paul Taylor said after a horrific attack “Lowther displayed no remorse or regard for life as he set about transporting the body to a wooded area to dispose of any evidence.
“This was a cold and heartless crime and I am pleased that this has been recognised today by the courts.”