Violent man given life for battering partner to death with breeze block

·3-min read
Ricky Woodford (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)
Ricky Woodford (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)

A violent man who killed his partner with a breeze block, 10 days after being released from hospital, has been jailed for life.

Ricky Woodford 42, denied murdering Sarah Smith 39, but admitted her manslaughter by diminished responsibility.

On Thursday, he was sentenced at the Old Bailey to life in prison with a minimum term of 12 years.

The court heard how Ms Smith suffered severe head injuries when she was attacked by Woodford with a breeze block and sharp implement at a flat in Eltham south-east London on October 30 last year.

The Old Bailey (Nick Ansell/PA) (PA Archive)
The Old Bailey (Nick Ansell/PA) (PA Archive)

The “caring and bubbly” woman had cried out for help and tried to ward off Woodford during a “sustained and prolonged” attack.

Prosecutor Oliver Glasgow QC said residents heard her cries in the early hours of the morning but assumed it was one of the couple’s “regular fights”.

Later that morning, following concerns raised by family, police officers went to the home and found Woodford sitting on a sofa across from Ms Smith’s lifeless body.

Next to her was a bloodied breeze block and a bible.

Woodford, who was mumbling and unsteady on his feet, appeared to be under the influence of drugs or suffering from a mental illness.

In a police interview, Woodford said that he “did not intentionally kill the love of my life”.

A post-mortem examination found Ms Smith had died from severe blunt force head injuries with evidence of cuts from a sharp object.

Mr Glasgow said: “It must have been a sustained and prolonged attack on her. Given the fact she sustained injuries to her hands, she had tried her best to ward off the attack that rained upon her.”

Woodford was a long-term user of Class A drugs and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, the court heard.

He had 47 convictions for 95 offences, including assaults, and had been released from a mental hospital ten days before the killing.

His family did not regard the relationship as healthy and steps had been taken by his mental health team to get an injunction against her, Mr Glasgow said.

The court was told Ms Smith had been upset about the move to end the relationship and felt she was being “vilified”.

Before the killing, Woodford’s behaviour had been “erratic” and “aggressive” and “violent”, the court was told.

Mr Glasgow suggested the defendant’s responsibility for the death was high because he continued to take class A drugs as part of his “coping mechanism” despite the risk of a further dangerous psychotic breakdown and harming others.

The court was told that Woodford had responded to treatment since he had been in custody and was no longer mentally ill.

Sentencing, Judge John Hillen said Woodford came from a “good family” with members “having served the public in important roles”.

The defendant, a convicted thief and burglar, had been in and out of psychiatric care with spells in prison for a large amount of his life, the judge said.

Judge Hillen told him: “Whether you had an underlying mental illness that led you into drug abuse or whether that misuse of drugs triggered your psychiatric illness is not for me to say.”

But he agreed that Woodford’s responsibility for the killing was high and made worse by his history of violence against his victim.

He added that the violence he used “was massive” and Ms Smith must have suffered for some time.

The judge acknowledged statements from Ms Smith’s family which described her as a “lovely bubbly happy soul” and “one of the most caring women you would meet”.

Judge Hillen told the defendant: “The pain, the anger, the loss is all too apparent. Her life is over but you still have yours and you will spend much, if not all, of that in custody.”

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