‘Controlling’ Leeds man who killed wife jailed for at least 21 years

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: West Yorkshire Police/PA</span>
Photograph: West Yorkshire Police/PA

A “coercive and controlling” husband who murdered his wife when he realised she was trying to break free from what was a toxic relationship has been jailed for at least 21 years.

Mark Barrott, who was the subject of a nationwide manhunt after the murder in the Whinmoor area of Leeds, was traced 400 miles away to a monastery in north-east Scotland where he was using an alias.

He had admitted manslaughter but denied murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility on the grounds of mental illness. He claimed in court that he believed his wife was possessed by a demon and he wanted to kill it.

After a two-week trial by jury at Leeds crown court, Barrott, now 55, was last month found guilty of murdering Eileen, who was 50.

On Monday, Judge Andrew Hatton, sitting at Bradford crown court, jailed Barrott for life with a minimum term of 21 years. He described his crime as “a final act of control” after a long history of domestic abuse.

Det Ch Insp Vanessa Rolfe, the senior investigating officer, said Barrott was “responsible for an appalling catalogue of coercive and controlling behaviour against his wife, Eileen, over a number of years.

“When he realised that she was trying to finally break free from this toxic relationship, he acted with murderous intent. His cruel and selfish actions have robbed Eileen’s family and friends of her and left a huge hole in their lives.”

Eileen Barrott smiling
Eileen Barrott was found dead at her home. She had been attacked with a hammer and strangled. Photograph: West Yorkshire Police/PA

Eileen had worked as a staff nurse at Leeds teaching hospitals NHS trust since 1996, most recently at St James’s hospital. When she worked late he would go there demanding to know where she was. The court heard that he would turn up unannounced when she was out socialising, causing a scene and being confrontational with her friends and colleagues.

Barrott stalked his wife physically and electronically using a mobile phone and tracking device hidden in her handbag. He would check her mobile phone and delete contacts that he did not approve of.

In August last year, Barrott attacked his wife with a hammer and strangled her, leaving her unresponsive body to be found by the couple’s adult son. She was pronounced dead by paramedics.

Barrott went on the run, travelling to Edinburgh and Aberdeen. After a nationwide alert, he was traced to Pluscarden Abbey, near Elgin, where he had been hiding using the alias of John Connolly.

Rolfe said she hoped that the conviction and sentence would provide a small measure of comfort to Eileen’s family and those who loved her.

“Controlling or coercive behaviour in a relationship became a specific offence in 2015 and continues to be a priority for West Yorkshire police and its partner agencies in our work to tackle domestic abuse and deliver against our Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy to improve investigations and reduce offences that disproportionately affect women and girls,” Rolfe said.

“We always encourage victims or those who know about their situation to report it, either directly to our specialist safeguarding officers or to any of our partner agencies, including the National Domestic Abuse Helpline.”