Devon

Barnstaple murders trial: Langmead wife 'mutilated'

Deborah Langmead and Donna St John
Image caption Deborah Langmead was found in the kitchen beside Donna St John

A mother of two found stabbed to death in her kitchen was sexually mutilated as she lay dead or dying, Exeter Crown Court has heard.

Deborah Langmead, 35, was found beside the body of her best friend, Donna St John, in Fortmead Close in Barnstaple in August 2010.

Her estranged husband Neil Langmead is alleged to have killed the women at the property before setting fire to it.

Mr Langmead, 40, from Barnstaple, denies two counts of murder and arson.

Forensic pathologist, Dr Russell Delaney, told the jury that Mrs Langmead had suffered a genital stab wound which could only have been made if she was unable to fight back.

He said: "Had she been conscious and able to resist, I would have expected to have seen significant injuries to external surfaces."

Semen was found on her legs. Dr Delaney said 19 stab wounds to her front and back would have caused death within minutes.

Murmurings in hospital

Miss St John, also 35, was found with 12 stab wounds and her breasts exposed.

Mrs Langmead had begun divorce proceedings and moved out of the family home.

Mr Langmead had also been served with a harassment notice to stay away from her.

The two women had been on a night out in Barnstaple when they bumped into Mr Langmead and all three went back to Fortmead Close.

In the early hours, Miss St John spoke to her boyfriend on the phone and said the Langmeads had sorted things out.

She was then heard to say: "What the hell are you doing?" before the line went dead.

Hours later, a passing nurse spotted smoke and firefighters found the women in the kitchen and Mr Langmead unconscious upstairs.

Image caption The alarm was raised by a nurse who spotted smoke coming from the house

The prosecution allege he inflicted stab wounds on himself, before starting a fire and trying to hang himself.

Defence barrister, Martin Meeke QC, said: "We say it was Debbie who stabbed and killed Donna before she tried to attack the defendant, who stabbed her in self defence.

Mr Meeke criticised police for not carrying out full forensic tests on three knives, one of which was found in Mrs Langmead's hand.

He said: "The fact is that at 12 Fortmead Close were found three knives with blood on them, and there were three victims.

"When the defendant awoke (in hospital) his earliest murmurings were 'my wife stabbed me'.

"Is it not important to work out which of the three victims had been stabbed with which of the knives?"

The trial continues.

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