Mum ‘battered to death by boyfriend who left cuddly toy next to her’

A man allegedly battered a woman to death before placing a cuddly toy next to her and leaving their house, a court heard.

Helen Joy, 54, was found dead with 121 external injuries at the home she shared with Kevin Ashton, 45, in Leasowe, Wirral.

Ashton denies murdering the woman and says she caused the injuries to herself, Liverpool Crown Court heard.

Prosecutors said he subjected the mum-of-three to “more than one episode of violent, life-threatening, blunt force assault”, the Liverpool Echo reports.

Opening a trial, David McLachlan, QC, said: “The prosecution case is that Helen Joy had literally been battered to death by Kevin Ashton. The man who shakes his head in the dock today.”

On February 1 this year, Ashton left their home and headed to Lime Street Station, the court heard.

He travelled to his dad’s home at around 10.30am, where he told his father “she’s dead”, before clarifying: “Helen’s dead.”

He said Mr Ashton “couldn’t believe what he was hearing” and asked “have you reported it?” but his son replied “no”.

The jury heard his dad called the police, who went to the couple’s home and forced entry.

The court heard officers found Helen Joy’s body on a mattress in the living room, with a purple duvet over her.

Mr McLachlan said: “She had a brown squirrel cuddly toy next to her and also a photo of a dog placed in between her hands on her chest.”

He told the jury the background to the case was “alcohol and violence” and Ms Joy and Ashton were “big drinkers”.

He added neighbours described them as “alcoholics” and regularly heard them shouting at each other.

Mr McLachlan said one neighbour, Gemma Ward, said Ms Joy looked “like a bag of bones” when she last saw her at Christmas.

She added that since lockdown she had only seen Ashton going out, usually to get alcohol.

The court heard on Thursday, January 28, a man called Martyn Freeman went to the couple’s flat to sell Ashton some cannabis and saw Ms Joy on a sofa, who shouted to Ashton.

Mr McLachlan said resident Kelsey Mayes heard Ms Joy shouting “shut up” earlier that week, but on January 28 or 29, she heard Ashton screaming “get up”, but didn’t hear a response.

He said on the night of Friday, January 29, neighbour Lee Edwards heard Ashton shouting “get the f*** up”, but also didn’t hear a response.

Mr McLachlan alleged that either that Friday or Saturday, Ashton gave Ms Joy “a beating that literally took her life away”.

He said on Sunday, January 31, “crying” Ashton went to Mr Freeman’s home, asked to use his phone to call his dad, and said: “The Mrs is dead.”

Mr McLachlan said “shocked” Mr Freeman, who didn’t have any credit and didn’t believe Ashton, told him he ought to phone the police and an ambulance.

Police arrested Ashton at his mum Linda Ashton’s home in Widnes at midday on February 1, where they found him drinking alcohol from a mug.

Mr McLachlan said his mum told officers “I was trying to get him to ring you” and Ashton was arrested on suspicion of murder.

He was taken to Runcorn Custody Suite, where the court heard he told officers “this is absolute bollocks”, then later added: “My f***ing bird is dead, and I’m getting the blame for it now. Do you want me to be happy?”

Mr McLachlan said Ashton became upset when he claimed Ms Joy had caused injuries to herself and he tried to stop her.

The prosecutor said Ashton later told an officer: “When the truth comes out, you’ll think this little p***head was telling the truth.”

He denied assaulting her and said she had been falling over for about two years, including 10 to 15 times in the last two months.

Mr McLachan said Ashton – who claimed no one else went in their flat – denied he had cleared up after assaulting Ms Joy and told police the squirrel and the dog photo “meant everything to her”, but accepted: “It looks dead dodgy now.”

He said Ashton admitted going to buy cannabis from Mr Freeman, while Ms Joy was dead.

Home Office pathologist Dr Paul Johnson found numerous injuries to Ms Joy, some of which he said could relate to falling.

Mr McLachlan said: “However, the overall pattern according to Dr Johnson indicated that Helen Joy had been subjected to a violent, recent and life-threatening blunt force assault, which involved blows to her head and also to her neck.”

He said: “In total, there were 121 external injuries to her body and we will go through every single one of those injuries in this case.”

Mr McLachlan said Dr Johnson found 27cm by 27cm bruising to Ms Joy’s scalp “not far off a ruler from school, the square area of that”; her “scalp seemed to have come away from the skull”; her upper gum was also “sheered from the jaw”; and she had a broken nose.

The doctor identified various fractures to the bones in Ms Joy’s neck, typically caused by “forceful compression”, and 14 broken ribs.

Mr McLachlan said there was bleeding on her brain and evidence of traumatic head injuries of different ages.

He said Dr Johnson concluded “repetitive forceful blows” would have been required to account for the head and face injuries, with the scalp sheering suggestive of kicking.

The prosecutor said Dr Johnson found the cause of death was “multiple injuries with terminal hypothermia”.

Mr McLachlan said the falls could explain some of Ms Joy’s injuries, but got “nowhere near” explaining them all.

He said Ms Joy “sadly had been subjected to more than one episode of violent, life-threatening, blunt force assault in the days leading up to death” and there was “good pathological evidence to show that some of the assault injuries were sustained within 12 to 24 hours of her death”.

Mr McLachan added: “And what did he do about it, as she was so poorly, lying on the floor injured? What did he do? Simply, he did nothing.”