Grandad jailed for life for strangling mum-of-three at Burnley home

MURDER VICTIM: Shelley Barnes. (s)
MURDER VICTIM: Shelley Barnes. (s)

POLICE have admitted they may never know what made a Burnley man strangle his neighbour who he let live under his roof.

Fifty-year-old grandad Dean Thompson was jailed for life after admitting murdering mother-of-three Shelley Barnes (38) at his home in Hobart Street, Burnley, last year.

Mr David Turner QC (prosecuting) said it was just after 6 p.m. on November 7th when Shelley Barnes was found face down on the floor at the foot of a bed.

She had had difficulties in her life and there had been an ongoing drug problem. She had previously lived opposite the defendant and had moved into his house, pending rehousing, where she slept on a couch.

Thompson, who was regarded as a loner, had started drinking heavily and in the last six months was understood to have suffered from depression.

Three days before her death, Miss Barnes said the defendant had wanted to have sex and she refused. She said she was scared of him and he was getting worse.

At 5-20 p.m. on November 7th Thompson telephoned his sister saying: “I’ve murdered somebody. I strangled that girl.”

A post-mortem gave the cause of death as pressure to the neck and there were indications a violent struggle had taken place.

The defendant made no comment in police interviews, but in a prepared statement said they had been in a relationship, mainly as friends, rather than sexual and had lived under the same roof for seven to eight months.

Thompson claimed Miss Barnes’ behaviour was becoming unpredictable and he found it difficult to cope. He claimed to have been provoked, resulting in him losing control and attacking her.

Mr Peter Wright QC (defending) told the court Thompson had lived a hard working and industrious life and was a doting father and grandad.

He said the relationship with the woman had not been punctuated by acts of irrationality or violence and there was no suggestion of sexual deviancy.

The relationship had deteriorated and there had been no sexual frustration on the defendant’s part.

The defendant had offered her a roof over her head at a time she had been at risk of losing her tenancy. On occasions she needed money and there was frustration and irritation on Thompson’s part.

On the day of the murder, money that had been put aside for Christmas was no longer there. The defendant had a loss of control.

Mr Wright added: “The incident began downstairs, with the application of the ligature. He carried her upstairs and put her in the bedroom to prevent her getting any more drugs.

“He tied her to the bedstead, wanting to ensure she did not leave the room and get more drugs. The bag over the head was to ensure death.

“He recognises he has finished her life. He doesn’t seek sympathy for his own position. He recognises he has deprived her children of their mother. He has ended her life and by his conduct, effectively ended his.”

Det. Insp. Broome added: “Thompson acknowledged his responsibility for causing Shelley’s death from an early stage in the investigation, but initially sought to show he had lost control of his faculties at the time of the killing, suggesting he was guilty of manslaughter, not murder.”

There’s more on this case in tomorrow’s Express