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Man who killed ex and dumped body near lay-by ‘physically abusive’, jury told

The man accused of murdering Sarah Henshaw and dumping her body near a lay-by was “physically abusive” towards her in the months before her death, a court has heard.

Darren Hall denies killing his ex-girlfriend Ms Henshaw, 31, and disposing of her body in woodland close to a lay-by on the westbound A617 near Chesterfield, Derbyshire, in June.

Derby Crown Court heard on Friday that Ms Henshaw was “beaten up” by Hall after the pair attended an N-Dubz concert in Manchester on December 4 last year.

Giving evidence, Chloe Crofts, who was in a relationship with Ms Henshaw’s brother at the time, said: “At two, three o’clock we got a banging on the door. It was Sarah.

“She was in a state. He had beaten her up.

“(She was) upset, crying, angry, just did not know what to do with herself.

“She had bruises all over her. She said ‘he has beaten me up’.”

When asked by prosecutor Michelle Heeley KC what injuries Ms Henshaw had sustained, Ms Crofts said: “There was a bruise on her eye, bruises on her arms and later that morning she showed me her legs and there were bruises on her legs and one around her neck.”

Ms Heeley asked: “Other than saying he had beaten her up, did she give any details about how that happened?”

Ms Crofts replied: “The bruise on her leg, she said that he had stamped on her.”

Ms Heeley asked: “When she said ‘he’, who was she referring to?”

Ms Crofts said: “Darren Hall.”

Pictures of the injuries were shown to the jury, which Ms Crofts – who gave evidence from behind a curtain – said she took on her phone at Ms Henshaw’s request.

She also said that throughout Hall and Ms Henshaw’s relationship, he “always wanted to know where she was, what she was doing and who she was with”.

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In cross-examination, defence KC Andrew Vout asked whether Ms Henshaw had mentioned that she had drunk “two bottles of wine” at the concert and had repeatedly fallen over, including into parked cars, before returning from the concert.

Ms Crofts said she could not recall Ms Henshaw mentioning it, but that she did not believe Ms Henshaw was drunk.

The Crown alleges that Hall, 36, killed Ms Henshaw at her home in Norman Street, Ilkeston, on the night of June 20 this year and “callously dumped” her body in the lay-by 20 miles away.

He then used Ms Henshaw’s phone to text friends and neighbours to pretend she was still alive, telling them that she had gone missing while disposing of her belongings at a recycling centre and in a skip, Ms Heeley told the court on Wednesday.

Ms Henshaw was last seen alive on the evening of June 20, with her body not discovered until June 26.

After his arrest, Hall told police that Ms Henshaw fell down the stairs during an argument, but Ms Heeley said there were no marks on the stairs and that bruising found on Ms Henshaw’s neck was “about the width of a dressing gown cord”.

In his evidence, Ms Henshaw’s brother, Callum Stevenson, said he also saw Hall “get quite physically abusive” towards his sister in an incident at the defendant’s address in Rodney Way, Ilkeston, in 2016.

Wearing a tie with Ms Henshaw’s initials embroidered on it, he said: “I have seen Darren get quite physically abusive towards Sarah.

“Sarah was going up the stairs and Darren grabbed her by the arm and neck and pushed her into the bedroom.”

Mr Stevenson told jurors that he overheard Ms Henshaw telling their mother about physical abuse on “multiple occasions” and accused Hall of “being emotionally abusive at the same time”.

“I can’t give specifics of what he did to her but it was, a lot of the time, physical abuse,” he said.

“Sometimes she had bruises to her arms, face and so on.”

Mr Stevenson said he also recalled the incident after the N-Dubz concert, and that Ms Henshaw had said “Darren had beaten her up”.

The trial continues.