A policeman was jailed for life on the 23rd May 2009 for murdering his fiancée, also a police constable, and then faking a car crash to disguise the killing. Martin Forshaw, 27, admitted killing Claire Howarth, 31, as they prepared to fly to the Caribbean to marry. He had told her that he was still involved with his former girlfriend. After saying that the wedding was off, he beat Miss Howarth repeatedly with a hammer in the home that they shared, next to her wedding dress and packed suitcases.
Forshaw, known as Alex, pleaded guilty as his trial was due to start at Manchester Crown Court. Sentencing him to a minimum of 18 years, Mr Justice David Clarke said: “This was a brutal killing. Whatever immediately led up to it, you struck Claire Howarth at least five times to and around the head with a very heavy and dangerous instrument.”
The couple were preparing to fly to St Lucia for their wedding and Miss Howarth had texted a friend in the early hours of 7th May 2009 to say that they had been dancing round the house in excitement. Forshaw then told Miss Howarth that he was not going to marry her. It later emerged that he was booked on a holiday to Disneyland Paris with Lisa Charles, the mother of his four-year-old son. “He told her he did not wish to go through with the wedding. He realised that was the end of the relationship,” Peter Wright, QC, representing Forshaw, said. Mr Wright said that Miss Howarth confronted Forshaw with the garden mallet during the row that followed and that Forshaw “plainly lost his self control”. Pathologists said that Forshaw’s original claim of self-defence was “totally implausible”.
After the attack Forshaw carried Miss Howarth to her BMW. Mr Wright said that Forshaw admitted striking his girlfriend twice more during the car journey because he wanted to “put her out of her pain”. He drove around quiet country lanes before putting Miss Howarth into the driving seat and accelerating into a hedge. He then dialled 999, claiming that Miss Howarth had been injured because she was not wearing a seatbelt. She died later that day. The car was almost unscratched, but a post-mortem examination found that Miss Howarth had 14 separate injuries and died of “severe head trauma”.
“It was such a poor attempt to make it look like a crash that both the police and the ambulance service were immediately suspicious,” Senior Investigating Officer Andy Tattershall, of Greater Manchester Police, said. “The severity of Claire’s head injuries meant they could not have been caused by such a minor crash. That caused us to question Forshaw’s account and led us to unravelling this tragic sequence of events.”
The judge told Forshaw: “You may have been panicking but you were also cowardly . . . You, seeing her so seriously injured, finished her off.”
Miss Howarth had just completed two years’ probation with Greater Manchester Police. She was described as “a person who brought light into the police station” by her manager, Chief Superintendent John O’Hare.
Forshaw, of Meadow Way, Tottington, Bury, in Lancashire, had been with Cheshire Constabulary since 2003 and was an expert in self-defence. He had lived with Miss Charles until 2007. Mr Wright said that Forshaw had “buried his head in the sand” about his involvement with his child’s mother. “He was torn. Torn as to his loyalties and torn as to what, if any, future he ought to pursue for the best.”