Driving instructor is jailed for life over murder of former girlfriend

A DRIVING instructor has been jailed for life after he was convicted of murdering his former girlfriend.

Laura Smith, 29, had left Nigel Pickard and returned last May to her parents' home in Southwold Rise, Scarborough, with their baby daughter, Olivia, a few months after her birth.

On Sunday July 11 last year, Pickard visited her there with a toy for the baby. But he then attacked the hair stylist, partly strangling her and then squeezing her throat in a headlock causing fatal brain damage from a lack of oxygen. Miss Smith died the following day with numerous bruises and injuries, reflecting how she had fought for her life.

Pickard, 45, of Filey Road, Scarborough, was yesterday found guilty by a jury by an 11-1 majority at Leeds Crown Court of murder.

Ordering him to serve a minimum of 15 years in prison minus time on remand, Judge Scott Wolstenholme told Pickard that Miss Smith had tried to make it clear to him that their relationship was over, although she wanted him to remain involved in their daughter's life.

"You were bitter and resentful over the break-up of your relationship and obsessed Laura was carrying on an affair with another man. You wallowed in self pity and put emotional pressure on Laura which created further estrangement."

The judge said on that Sunday during the visit "your anger, resentment and jealousy boiled over. You grabbed her violently by the throat and then applied a headlock to her".

A pathologist described sustained and prolonged pressure being applied as Pickard "squeezed the life out of her".

Pickard had called an ambulance, but Miss Smith had suffered brain damage as a result of his attack. The judge said he accepted the attack was not pre-meditated, but was satisfied Pickard intended to kill at the time he applied pressure to her neck.

It was also an aggravating feature that the attack started in the kitchen in front of their baby daughter. He added: "One hopes there will be no memory of what happened to affect Olivia as she grows up.

"This case is particularly sad because you not only deprived a 29-year-old woman of her life, you deprived her and your daughter, then only seven months old, of her mother and deprived Laura's parents of their only child, and the suffering spreads beyond them to grandparents and other members of the family."

After the case, Det Insp Andrea Kell, of the Protecting Vulnerable Persons Unit in Scarborough, said Pickard had consistently denied intending to kill Miss Smith.

She added: "Having heard the evidence, the jury has seen through his tissue of lies, finding him guilty of a vicious attack resulting in the death of a vibrant and very popular young woman.

"Laura's parents have been left absolutely devastated by the death of their only child. They are now raising their granddaughter who will sadly grow up without the love and support of her mother."

Parents Trish and Colin Smith said they were relieved at the verdict, and added: "This trial has been an ordeal for us both as it brought back that fateful day when were lost our precious daughter and Olivia lost her mummy."

They said their daughter had not been having an affair with another man – that had just been Pickard's obsession. "We now have to look to the future and bring Olivia up as Laura would have wanted."

Mrs Smith said in a victim impact statement that they were filled with horror at the thought Pickard might want to be back in his daughter's life after release.