Lancashire

Sadie Hartley death: Murder accused 'never violent' partner claims

Sadie Hartley Image copyright Family of Sadie Hartley
Image caption Sadie Hartley was fatally stabbed at her house on Sunny Bank Road in Helmshore

The partner of a woman accused of murdering a love rival has said she was "never violent" and he had "no idea" she was allegedly having an affair.

Sarah Williams, 35, and Katrina Walsh, 56, both from Chester, deny the murder of Sadie Hartley at her home in Helmshore, Lancashire, in January.

David Hardwick told Preston Crown Court he "could not believe" Ms Williams had been arrested on suspicion of murder.

Ms Hartley, 60, was stunned with a cattle prod and stabbed.

The prosecution claimed Ms Williams carried out the killing with Ms Walsh's help after becoming obsessed with Ms Hartley's partner, Ian Johnston.

But Mr Hardwick - who continued to live with his wife throughout his relationship with Ms Williams - said he had "never seen her physically violent towards anyone".

Asked if he was shocked when he was informed of her arrest, he replied: "Obviously. I couldn't believe it.

"I asked them if they had got the right Sarah Williams."

Image caption Sadie Hartley, a mother-of-two, was found dead in the hallway of her house in Rossendale

The 75-year-old, previously described to the court as a "sugar daddy", said he was 57 when he met Ms Williams, who was 17 at the time.

He said he was unaware of her alleged affair, which was said to be have been taking place while she was living an affluent lifestyle largely at his expense.

The semi-retired heating firm boss said he had paid for a string of holidays, as well as giving her £75,000 towards buying a house and paying £320 per week into her bank account by standing order.

But he denied she was "a kept woman" and said he took that suggestion "very offensively".

Ms Williams worked part-time in a bank and then at Manchester's Chill Factore indoor ski centre, where she is said to have met ski instructor Mr Johnston, the court heard.

'Appeared normal'

Asked whether Ms Williams had ever shown signs of jealousy towards his wife, he said: "I don't think so."

However, he later agreed that during the early years of their relationship Ms Williams did ask him to leave his wife and became angry when he would not.

Mr Hardwick said Ms Williams had appeared normal when he visited her the morning after the alleged murder.

However, he noted that she "snuggled up" to him as soon as he got into bed, which "stood out in his mind" at a time when their relationship had become non-sexual.

Two days later, on 17 January, he arrived at the house as normal and was greeted by police officers, the court heard.

Ms Walsh is said to have played a key role in helping her friend to "eliminate" her love rival.

The trail continues.

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