Judge calls for Bedfordshire Police to review handling of domestic homicide case

Sarah Albone. Image: supplied by Bedfordshire Police
Sarah Albone. Image: supplied by Bedfordshire Police

A review of Bedfordshire police’s actions is to be launched after a violent and controlling killer murdered his partner, put her body in a suitcase and dumped it in a wheelie bin where it remained undiscovered for 3 months.

Matthew Waddell, was jailed for a minimum of 32 years yesterday (Thursday), for the murder of Sarah Albone at her home in Biggleswade.

After jailing the 35-year-old for life at Luton crown court, Judge Michael Simon said the relationship was classified as “high risk”.

He said: “I cannot help but observe that the relationship between Ms Albone and the defendant had been brought to the attention of the police on a number of occasions.

“A domestic violence risk assessment classified the relationship as high risk. I do not seek to ascribe blame nor am I indicating that Ms Albone’s death might have been avoided by greater police action.

“However, I would encourage the relevant section of Bedfordshire police to undertake a full review of this case and their contact and involvement with Ms Albone to consider whether any lessons can be learnt that might help to prevent other deaths or serious consequences in domestic contexts.”

The jury heard the “toxic relationship” began in November 2020.

Coercive behaviour

Sarah Albone, who had multiple sclerosis, had ended the relationship on occasions and in September 2021 she had complained to the police about his controlling and coercive behaviour.

He ignored a police bail condition not to contact her. In December of that year she made another statement cataloging his controlling and aggressive behaviour towards her.

The remains of the 38-year-old were found in a suitcase, wrapped in cellophane in the taped up bin at her house in Winston Crescent on 25 February this year. Three months after she was last seen.

Waddell lied to her anxious family and friends saying she was receiving treatment at a hospital in London and could not be contacted.

Matthew Waddell Image: Bedfordshire Police
Matthew Waddell Image: Bedfordshire Police

He pretended to be her by sending text messages from her mobile phone while using her bank card and selling her belongings.

Last Christmas Eve, with her body just feet away in the wheelie bin, Waddell sent a video message to a friend while watching a YouTube. He said: “This is what Christmas is all about – a big glass of wine and James May talking about f….. different types of cheese.”

Waddell was convicted of murdering the mother-of-three between 20th November last year and 26 February.

Prosecutor Martin Mulgrew said a post-mortem examination found a “frenzied and horrific attack had been carried out, resulting in catastrophic injuries.

“The cause of death was airway obstruction caused by catastrophic injuries to her head. She had broken ribs and injuries to her body. She had been stamped on, kicked, punched and possibly hit with a weapon.

In a letter found in the house, Waddell wrote: “I stamped on your head so many times I have caved your head literally, but you were still breathing. I grabbed a towel and wrapped it around your head. There was blood everywhere.” He went on: “I felt nothing.”

Her step-sister Corinne Foster described the relationship as “ toxic.” In February Waddell, pretending to be Sarah, replied to Corinne’s anxious text messages saying: “I am ok. I am in hospital in London. I am home in the beginning of March.“

Asked why ‘Sarah’ had not told her, he replied: “Sorry babe. A big part is my mental health. They are putting a plan in for me.“

Mr Mulgrew said: “This peaked Corinne Foster’s suspicion. It was because of the way the texts were written. Sarah Albone would never have called her babe. The tone and the grammar did not match.”

Case review

Waddell, who is muscular, 5 feet 10 or 11, claimed he had snapped after suffering “years of abuse” from 5 foot 1 tall Sarah. He told the jury: ”It was like a curtain came down. It is a feeling like you would not believe. You literally go numb. You stop feeling.”

From the dock, Waddell saw family and friends of Sarah wearing light blue T-shirts emblazoned with her face.

In a victim personal statement her mother Paula Minnis said: “Matthew lied for months pretending to be her. He told us she was getting treatment when he had brutally killed her and kept her hidden at her house.”

Nikita Clayton, one of Sarah’s sisters, said: “She was found in a bin, disposed of like a piece of rubbish, like nothing.”

Judge Simon told him: “It is difficult for anyone to conceive the terror Ms Albone must have experienced and how frightened and helpless she must have felt against you.” He said that his subsequent acts showed a “callous disregard” for her in death.

The judge said he passed the minimum term of 32 years for the “unrestrained brutality of attack, the persistence of it through various modes until the death was assured, her vulnerabity, the domestic context and the concealment of her body.”

A spokesperson for Bedfordshire Police said: “A domestic homicide review will take place into this case where all these issues will be thoroughly investigated.”

Reporting by South Beds News Agency
Edited by Paul Hutchinson for the Bedford Independent

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