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7 September 2012, 11:58
A former Dorset police constable who repeatedly punched his pregnant ex-girlfriend to try to bring on a miscarriage has been jailed for ten years.
Matthew Cherry, 35, used a balaclava and a fake foreign accent to launch the "savage attack'' at Caroline Craft's ground-floor flat in Bournemouth. He punched her in the stomach and back, targeting her unborn child and leaving her "bloodied and bruised'', but she was not seriously harmed and gave birth to a boy - now 15 months old.
Cherry was angry and upset that Miss Craft, 27, also a police officer, would not have an abortion and the pair split up, Winchester Crown Court heard during the eight-day trial.
Cherry, now living in Southampton, denied attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent in March last year in the "well-planned'' attack. He said he was not the attacker and he was several miles away renovating a house.
The jury heard that Miss Craft was six months pregnant when she answered the door to a masked attacker on March 24, thinking it was an estate agent come to view her flat.
Matthew Jewell, prosecuting, said: "Caroline Craft then heard a knock on the door of her flat. She opened the door, which was then pushed violently from outside, and she was either pushed or punched to the floor. She was then attacked with multiple punches to her stomach and back, in a way which targeted her unborn child. She shouted for help and a gloved hand was placed over her mouth. She was also kicked.
"She pointed out valuable items in case this was a robbery or burglary but her attacker showed no interest in taking anything. She was dragged into the bathroom and forced to sit on the toilet. The male said he would tie her up. She was absolutely terrified about what was happening to her in her own home.''
The attack only ended because the estate agent turned up and Cherry fled, using a back door as he knew the block well and had owned the flat before selling it to Miss Craft. Cherry was linked to the crime by a jigsaw puzzle of evidence that presented a "compelling picture'' that he was the attacker who carried out the "savage attack'' and the jury of five women and seven men agreed.
He had told Miss Craft and her flatmate Carla Hutchings that he had thought about punching her in the stomach to cause a miscarriage. He said the pregnancy had left him feeling "trapped'' and had "ruined his life'', the jury heard. And he even discussed with a police colleague how to bring on a miscarriage. He told the jury that he did not love Miss Craft and was only fond of her. Miss Hutchings was away in New York when Miss Craft was attacked. She had posted the trip on Facebook and Cherry had access to her page.
Footwear impressions were found at the scene and were found to have been left by size 10 Nike Dart trainers. Cherry took a size 10 shoe and when his home was searched, a Nike box was found that had originally held size 10 Nike Dart trainers. He admitted he used to have the same trainers and had thrown them away several years previously but the prosecution said he had made a mistake. CCTV found a hooded man reconnoitring the route to the flat an hour before the attack and Cherry's mobile phone was tracked to the same area at the same time. It was the route the hooded attacker took when he fled, which was also caught on CCTV.
Analysis found that the man on the CCTV was 6ft 1in tall and Cherry is 6ft 1in tall. Police also found out the vacuum cleaner the attacker carried was a Panasonic model and one of similar appearance was given to the defendant's brother and kept in a communal area but disappeared after the attack. Cherry, who resigned from Dorset Police in November last year, was "forensically aware'' and had used his police experience to try to avoid detection, the court heard.
Speaking after the verdict Caroline said:
"The past 18 months have been a living hell. The actions of Matthew Cherry on that day were callous, cold-hearted and utterly selfish. I will never forgive him for what he did to me and what he so nearly could have done to my baby.
"I thank God that despite Matthew Cherry's efforts, my beautiful son, Archie, was born healthy and unharmed by his actions.
"This verdict has given me some closure and I can now hopefully start to move on with my life and build a future for me and my son.
"I wish to thank the Police and my family and friends for their continued support throughout."