A Rugby man who almost decapitated his estranged wife with a knife has been jailed for life after being convicted of her murder.
The judge said that in view of the vicious nature of the killing and his ‘cool and calculating’ actions afterwards, Owen Williams must serve a minimum of 22 years before he can even be considered for parole.
Williams, who was 51 on the second day of the jury’s deliberations, had denied murdering 34-year-old Shana Cover.
He broke down in tears when, after 13 hours 26 minutes over the course of four days in the sixth week of the trial, the jury at Warwick Crown Court unanimously found him guilty.
Based on the equity in his home in Grizedale, Rugby, Judge Richard Griffith-Jones also ordered him to £20,000 towards the total prosecutions costs of more than £136,000.
During the trial the jury heard it is believed Shana, who worked at Rugby’s St Cross Hospital and was also doing a degree at Coventry University, was killed on August 14.
She had been at her home to sign for a parcel at just after 3pm, and her last phone call that day ended at 5.34.
“The prosecution case is that within minutes of that she was dead. Her attacker had almost completely severed her head from her body,” said prosecutor Peter Grieves-Smith.
After finishing work as a chef at the Bell and Barge Harvester in Leicester Road at around 3pm that day, Williams had phoned his estranged wife before driving into Rugby town centre.
CCTV cameras showed him visiting various shops and buying binoculars before returning to his car at 4.40 and driving along a route covered by a large number of cameras.
But after his car had been picked up by a camera close to the junction with Murray Road, it was not captured by another camera in Murray Road until an hour and nine minutes later.
In that time Williams drove to Morton Gardens where he killed Shana by cutting her throat with such ferocity that her head was almost severed from her body – and he then had a shower in the flat before leaving.
Her body, slumped against the sofa in the living room, was not found until a week later after the alarm was raised by people who had been trying to get in touch with her.
Following Williams’s arrest, the police found a knife with a 25cm blade in an oil drum in his garage, and also seized his boots from the staff area of the Bell and Barge.
Forensic scientist Christopher Lloyd said there were traces of dilute blood on the knife and on the boots Williams had been wearing that day which matched Shana’s DNA profile.
Her blood, which would have been all over his clothes, also soaked into a cardboard air freshener hanging from the gear stick in his BMW car.
And there was evidence that, fearing they would contain incriminating evidence, Williams coldly returned for her phones two or three days after the killing.
After the jury’s verdict Mr Grieves-Smith read out part of a victim impact statement from Shana’s mother Yvonne Rose, who the jury had head had herself previously been in a relationship with Williams which had ended before he met Shana in Jamaica.
In it she said she and her daughter had had a strained relationship, and she will never have the opportunity for them to become reconciled – and Mr Grieves-Smith said her ‘sense of grief is profound.’
Michael Duck QC, defending, conceded: “That which I can say at the conclusion of a trial is rather limited.
“But whatever happened on that day, there had been a significant period of time in which this couple had been married and they had been happy. This was a woman whom he loved, but something had gone very badly wrong in their relationship.”
Asking the judge to sentence on the basis that Williams could not be proved to have taken the knife, identical to those used at the Bell and Barge to the scene, he said no motive could be put forward for the killing.
But Judge Griffith-Jones commented: “I think there was an obsessive desire to control; a sense he had given to her, and she was not being loyal to him, and a sense he was being trapped by litigation such that he could not go to his mother’s funeral.”
Mr Duck accepted: “Whoever committed this crime, and the jury has decided it was Mr Williams, must have had an appalling loss of temper.
“But there had been other traumas in their life which had not resulted in violence. Something extraordinary must have happened that day.”
Jailing Williams, Judge Griffith-Jones told him: “In the end I cannot be sure you took the knife to the scene.
“Very shortly before you committed this murder you did not have murderous intent in mind because you were buying binoculars, and it is obvious you would not want to buy binoculars to observe someone who was not alive.
“Secondly, at the scene was a similar knife, and I can’t exclude that as part of your support to her you provided Shana Cover with a couple of knives, one of which you then used as the murder weapon.”
But the judge continued: “The context for this terrible crime was, in my judgement, an obsessive desire to exercise control over your estranged partner.
“You had a misplaced sense that you were entitled to interfere in and control her social life. You were determined to monitor what she was doing.
“On the face of it you had an equitable temperament which belied angry and obsessive feelings. The fact that you had helped her, you believed entitled you to control her.”
Judge Griffith-Jones said Williams also had a sense of grievance that county court and another matter they were involved in meant he could not attend his mother’s funeral in Jamaica.
“You were indignant and angry; and I have no doubt that, on learning of her dalliance with [another man] you were far more angry and determined to control.
“You could not cope with her determination to be free of your control; and you decided if you could not have her, no-one else would.
“You armed yourself with a heavy and vicious knife, and you launched a brutal and ferocious attack.
“It is distressing to contemplate the efforts she made to protect herself. But she eventually became so debilitated that you were able, with her at your mercy, to strike a number of terrible blows which all but decapitated her.
“Your jealousy and your determination for power over her propelled you to this attack.
“What followed was frankly chilling, because there you are, a man with a reputation for being easy going having just committed this terrible offence, and what your eyes must have seen would to most decent people have been utterly appalling.
“But you, I am quite sure looking like a butcher in an abattoir, decided to clean as much blood off as you could in the bathroom.
“What you were not able to do was to wash the clothing you had, which was so badly bloodstained that by the time you got back into your car they came into contact with that air freshener.
“You decided to create a false alibi and phoned your girlfriend and set up a trip to Birmingham. What you did not know was how long it would take for Shana Cover’s body to be found.
“And what a cold and determined man you must have been to return to the scene to remove evidence which must have been worrying you, namely her telephones.
“You must have known what you were going to see, but it did not deflect you in the least from ridding yourself of evidence you believed must be incriminating.”
And in actually passing sentence, he told Williams: “By reason of the persistent and vicious attack with a terrible weapon, and the near-decapitation of a woman who was at your mercy, and your cool and calculating response in the aftermath, the least I can pass on you is 22 years before you are eligible to apply for parole.”
After the trial concluded Shana’s tearful mother Yvonne Rose said she did not wish to make any comment about the sentence her daughter’s killer had just received.
But Ms Rose said: “I would like thank the judge and everyone who’s taken part in the trial for their time and effort and the way it has been conducted. Justice has been served.
“I would also like to thank the police and all the people like the forensic expert for the hard work they’ve put into the investigation.
“And I also want to thank my family and friends for the support they’ve given me at what has been a very difficult time.”