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Man who murdered ex-partner and her boyfriend jailed for life in Leeds

<span>Steven Harnett and Katie Higton. Marcus Osborne, of Huddersfield, pleaded guilty to double murder, rape and false imprisonment.</span><span>Photograph: West Yorkshire police/PA</span>
Steven Harnett and Katie Higton. Marcus Osborne, of Huddersfield, pleaded guilty to double murder, rape and false imprisonment.Photograph: West Yorkshire police/PA

A man who murdered his ex-partner and her new boyfriend in a “ferocious, merciless and sustained” attack has been jailed for life and told he will never be released.

Days before she was murdered by Marcus Osborne, Katie Higton had told police she feared for her life.

Osborne, 35, killed Higton, 27, in a frenzied stabbing, inflicting 99 injuries. He then used her Snapchat account to lure Steven Harnett, 25, to his death.

After killing them, he declared: “Romeo and Juliet, they can fucking die together now.” The court heard he appeared calm and was laughing.

There was evidence he raped Higton when she was dead or dying, and mutilated Harnett. In the morning, he asked a neighbour round to show them the bodies.

Osborne, of Huddersfield, pleaded guilty to double murder, rape and false imprisonment. He was sentenced to a whole life order by Mrs Justice Lambert KC at Leeds crown court on Friday morning.

She said: “I reach this conclusion fully aware that such a disposal is a rare one and reserved for only the most extreme cases.”

She said his actions were horrific and there were no mitigating factors other than a guilty plea.

“The motivation for both killings was sexual in nature,” she said. “Both were driven by your sexual jealousy. I am sure you also engaged in sexual activity when Katie was either dead or dying.”

The court heard Higton and Osborne had been together for five years before he became “coercive, controlling and physically abusive”, telling Higton what she could wear, how she could use social media and whom she could know.

Friends described Higton as going from being “fun, bubbly and independent” to a person who posted about being sad on social media.

Jonathan Sandiford KC, prosecuting, said the “final straw” came after a violent assault that left her unable to move for several days. When able to, she left Osborne and was proud to have done so, the court heard, vowing never to go back.

Osborne warned Higton that if she ever met someone else, he would “end her fully”.

He became aware she was seeing Harnett and and threatened to kick his head in and “fuck him up” unless Higton deleted him from her phone. He threatened to slit her throat and said if she got a new boyfriend he would kill them both.

Higton made a statement to police on 11 May, saying she feared for her life. She said: “If I ever get another boyfriend, he [Osborne] will kill us both.”

Police arrested Osborne the next day and interviewed him in relation to coercive behaviour and violence, bailing him on condition that he did not go to Higton’s home.

He used neighbours to spy on Higton and went to her house late on 14 May, while she and Harnett were on a date at a cinema in Halifax.

Sandiford said Higton was in effect defenceless against Osborne’s knife attack as soon as she came through her door, “although she put up a courageous struggle”.

Osborne also raped at knifepoint another woman he had held captive in the house. Four children were in the property at the time of the murders.

In a victim impact statement read out in court, Higton’s mother, Nicola McAlister, described Osborne as a “monster of the worst kind”.

She added: “I no longer live, I simply exist in a tortuous world without my baby. I am tormented every second of every day that I draw breath.”

At the end of the sentencing, the judge paid tribute to the dignity with which Higton and Harnett’s families had dealt with the hearing.

Sandiford said: “The defendant committed a premeditated and brutal double murder motivated by sexual jealousy, a desire to exercise control over Katie Higton, an unwillingness to accept her decision to leave him, and her freedom to form a relationship with another man.”

West Yorkshire police have referred themselves to the police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), because of their contact with the victim before the murders.

Osborne was jailed for 10 years for the rape and false imprisonment charges, to run concurrently.