A serial killer obsessive and his boyfriend have been jailed for life for murdering and dismembering a stranger at their “flat of horrors” containing weapons, snakes and horror film masks.
A month-long trial at Coventry Crown Court was told former TV and film student Nathan Maynard-Ellis, aged 30, decided to kill Julia Rawson to “re-enact” horror movies found at his flat.
Maynard-Ellis killed Ms Rawson, who he lured to his home in Mission Drive, Dudley Port, Tipton, West Midlands, after a chance meeting in a Dudley pub, with the help of David Leesley as the culmination of “years of pent-up fantasy and desire”.
Forensic tests on the remains of Ms Rawson, which were hidden on nearby wasteland, showed her body had been cut into 11 pieces, probably using a handheld wood saw.
Sentencing the killers, who appeared at Warwick Crown Court on Monday, Mr Justice Soole ordered Maynard-Ellis to serve at least 30 years and handed Leesley a 19-year minimum term.
Passing sentence, the judge said he was sure that both defendants had repeatedly struck Ms Rawson about the head with weapons, and had then engaged in a “cool, calm and thorough” cover-up.
Maynard-Ellis had played the “lead role” in the murder, the judge said, having decided to kill Ms Rawson before she even arrived at his flat in a taxi.
The judge told Leesley: “I am sure that you were in thrall to Maynard-Ellis and would do, and that night did, his bidding.
“I accept that Maynard-Ellis was playing a leading role through all of this but at all times you were giving him your unquestioning support.”
Maynard-Ellis had shown a significant degree of pre-meditation, the judge said, describing the decision to dismember and hide the body as a “terrible and comprehensive act of defilement and indignity”.
The judge added: “Only you two know just what happened in the flat but neither has told the truth.”
Maynard-Ellis was given concurrent sentences for the rape of a woman who contacted police after he was arrested to make historical allegations.
Following his conviction, the court heard Maynard-Ellis had contracted Covid-19 and had been in and out of hospital four times, for treatment to blood clots on his lungs.
Jurors were told Maynard-Ellis and Leesley were both aware of axes and “ornamental” weaponry, alongside balaclavas and a folding dagger at their flat, where they killed Ms Rawson in the early hours of Sunday May 12 2019.
Following the killing, Maynard-Ellis behaved normally, even visiting a pub hours later where he was seen smiling and making a phone call, and appearing “very happy” as he celebrated his birthday on May 21.
During his opening speech to the jury, Crown counsel Karim Khalil QC said “many knives, saws, axes and other bladed articles” were found in the “tiny” property.
Mr Khalil told jurors that they would hear from a forensic scientist specialising in the study of bones, who had helped recover 42-year-old Ms Rawson’s remains.
The prosecutor told the court: “There were four individual recoveries of wrapped human remains within four locations within two different areas – wasteland off Coneygree Road and the other, nearer to the flat, close to the rear of the Sacred Heart Primary School.”
Addressing the evidence relating to dismemberment, Mr Khalil said four body parts were found at one site and seven at the other, in weighted-down bags.
Ms Rawson’s body parts, including her severed head, hands and feet, were found on June 12 and 29 2019.
Mr Khalil told the jury: “The removal of the feet and hands, we say, would not have helped with disposal because they were bagged up and packed with the respective limbs.
“We suggest that this scale of dismemberment points clearly towards the gruesome fantasy aspect of this case, rather than towards any practical necessity after the death.”
Giving evidence in the third week of his trial, Maynard-Ellis, who has been diagnosed with depression and Asperger’s syndrome, told jurors he was bullied at school but had gone on to achieve a distinction on a special effects, film, television and theatre course.
Asked whether an interest in films and books found at his flat had made him want to “try to re-enact any of it in real life” or “take action” from a film, Maynard-Ellis told jurors: “No. I have looked at films to make costumes and masks and things – but not to act them out.”
But Mr Khalil claimed Maynard-Ellis had harboured dark thoughts for many years “focused mainly on the sexual assault of women and their violent killing”.
Mr Khalil added: “He has shown a particular interest in certain themes involving serial killers and the dismemberment of bodies.
“His boyfriend, David Leesley, knew of these interests, since their flat was full of printed materials, DVDs and videos about serial killers and the violent sexual abuse of women.”