Woman, 35, kills 60-year-old love-rival in ‘orgy of violence’

The 60-year-old shot with stun gun before being stabbed 40 times, a murder trial heard.

A jealous and obsessive woman paralysed her love-rival with a stun gun before stabbing and slashing her victim with “demonic savagery”, a murder trial heard.

Sarah Williams, 35, shot “decent, hard-working” businesswoman Sadie Hartley, 60, in the head with the weapon on the doorstep of her £500,000 (€587,700) home in the village of Helmshore, Lancashire. 

Williams then stabbed and slashed the mother of two 40 times in an “orgy of violence”, Preston Crown Court heard.

The defendant, who denies murder, had a past relationship with Ian Johnston, 57, Ms Hartley’s partner, who was out of the country at the time of the attack.

Ian Johnston with his partner Sadie Hartley
Ian Johnston with his partner Sadie Hartley

He had ended the relationship with Williams after she became “possessive and difficult” John McDermott, opening the case for the prosecution, told the jury.

“Obsessed” Williams “set her mind” to rekindle the relationship — but Ms Hartley was the “obstacle”.

She recruited a second defendant, Katrina Walsh, 56, also from Chester, to help her with the “murderous mission” and who kept a “revealing” diary as they hatched the plot, the court heard.

At just after 8pm on January 14 this year, Ms Hartley received an unexpected knock at the door of her home, on an up-market road in the Lancashire village.

Mr McDermott continued: “Sarah Williams stood on the doorstep. As soon as the door was opened, we suggest she lunged at Sadie Hartley with of all things a stun gun — the sort of thing you might use legitimately to prod cattle.

“She pressed it against her — Sadie Hartley’s head — and incapacitated her.

“Then with what can only be described as almost demonic savagery, she attacked her with a knife.

“She stabbed and slashed at this unfortunate woman; blow after blow, causing appalling and fatal injuries.

“She left her victim in a pool of blood in the hallway; closed the door; walked back to the car she had used on her murderous mission and set off back to her home in Cheshire.

“It was a premeditated, planned assassination of an innocent woman.”

The pair bought a tracking device which was later fixed to Johnston’s car so he could be followed online, said the prosecutor, but were almost certainly unaware that the selling company also kept a log of where the tracker goes.

Williams went on a number of reconnaissance missions to his address to make sure she had the right house and organised a “sinister” test run exactly one week before the murder.

“It was almost the stuff of spy novels.”

Though not involved on the night in question, while explaining her actions, Walsh told police that she “largely thought” she was taking part in a game of the Channel 4 programme Hunted about teams evading detection from military-style trackers. 

Mr McDermott told the jurors it was a matter for them as to whether Walsh was “really that stupid”.


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