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22 April 2015, 13:33
A man has been jailed for a minimum of 32 years for stabbing to death a mother of five as she tended her horses in a New Forest field after he was recruited to stop her making an accusation about a sexual assault.
Supermarket worker Pennie Davis, 47, was found dead by her husband on 2 September 2014 in a field at Leygreen Farm near Beaulieu, Hampshire.
Justin Robertson, 36, was found guilty of murder yesterday following a six-week trial at Winchester Crown Court.
He was given a life sentence and will serve a minimum of 32 years before he is considered for release.
Jurors heard that Robertson agreed to kill Ms Davis for Benjamin Carr, 22, the son of Mrs Davis's ex-lover, to stop her telling police that he had allegedly sexually assaulted someone when he was 14.
Carr, of Edward Road, Southampton, was found guilty of conspiracy to murder and was handed a life sentence. He will serve a minimum of 30 years in custody.
Co-defendant Samantha Maclean, 28, of Beech Crescent, Hythe, was found not guilty of the same charge.
Robertson's girlfriend, Lian Doyle, 24, also of Beech Crescent, earlier pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice after she disposed of his shoes, it can now be reported.
She has now been sentenced to 10 months in prison today (Wednesday 22 April). Doyle has been freed from prison already though after serving half the sentence on remand.
Mrs Davis, who had only recently married husband Peter Davis, was alone in a small paddock in a field tending her horses when she was fatally stabbed.
The trial heard that Mrs Davis knew Carr because she had been in a relationship with his father Timothy from about 2006 to 2012.
Prosecutor Richard Smith QC said Benjamin Carr harboured a ''lasting hate and anger'' towards Mrs Davis after she made a complaint to police about allegations of sexual assault against him when he was 14.
Mr Smith said police took no further action over the complaint and added that Carr ''strenuously and consistently'' denied the allegations.
But the accusations left Carr with a ''lasting sense of animosity, hatred, towards Pennie Davis'' which, according to prosecutors, didn't ''wear off''.
Mr Smith said Mrs Davis repeated the allegations against Carr in August last year after she found out that Timothy Carr was to marry his new partner, Alison Macintyre.
Mrs Davis sent Facebook messages to Ms Macintyre, saying one of the alleged victims of Carr would be making a statement to police.
She wrote in one message: ''Good luck, you will need it,'' and in another: ''I can't forgive him, all the s*** he gave me, I ******* hate him and all his family.''
In passing sentence, Mr Justice Popplewell described the murder as a ``contract killing''.
He said that Robertson was a ``career criminal'' with a string of convictions for theft and burglaries.
Carr persuaded him to kill Mrs Davies with the offer of £1,500 and ``by a perversion of the allegations'' being made by the victim, he said.
The judge explained: ``Ben Carr told Justin Robertson that she was a paedophile, a nonce in Justin Robertson's vocabulary, which Ben Carr knew would push a button with Justin Robertson because he hated nonces with a passion.
``In their twisted minds, this was a justification for killing.''
The judge said there were no mitigating features in Robertson's case.
``The stabbing was brutal and ferocious, causing no doubt terror and physical suffering before she died,'' he said.
He added that the killer's conduct in the witness box was ``deplorable'' because of the way he addressed his victim's family in the public gallery and threatening to kill Carr.
Mrs Davis's family released a statement after the guilty verdicts which read: ''The people responsible for our mum's brutal murder have been convicted but we cannot celebrate.
''It is not them, but us, Pennie's family, who have been given the real life sentence. The life of someone precious to us as a mother, daughter, wife and sister has gone and can't be replaced.
''We have attended court every day and have had to listen to many lies about Pennie, who has been robbed of her voice to defend herself.
''The Pennie presented in court by those who were desperate to try to justify their actions is not the Pennie we remember. For us she will always be our warm, loving, protective, determined, funny mum who loved her children more than anything.``
Mrs Davis, who had five children from previous relationships, suffered 13 stab wounds caused by 10 individual strikes.
Police linked Robertson to the murder scene after he dropped the keys to Maclean's Vauxhall Zafira car in the field and they were later found by officers searching the area.
Analysis of phone records and geo-location technology, which locates phones from the masts that they connect to, showed that Robertson carried out reconnaissance missions before the killing.
Mrs Davis was followed from her work at a Sainsbury's supermarket in her home town of Blackfield to the field near Beaulieu where she kept her horses.
Robertson later confessed to a friend and ''justified'' his actions by saying that he believed his victim was a ''nonce''.
He then went to stay with friends near Salisbury and with his brother in Gloucester before he handed himself in.
Maclean said in police interview that her phone, which had been used to contact Carr following the murder, had been lost and then later said she had lent it to Robertson and answered no comment to other questions.
A statement from the family of Pennie Davis said:
"The people responsible for our mum’s brutal murder have been convicted but we cannot celebrate. It is not them, but us Pennie's family, who have been given the real life sentence. The life of someone precious to us as a mother, daughter, wife and sister has gone and can’t be replaced.
"We have attended court every day and have had to listen to many lies about Pennie who has been robbed of her voice to defend herself. The Pennie presented in court by those who were desperate to try to justify their actions is not the Pennie we remember. For us she will always be our warm, loving, protective, determined, funny mum who loved her children more than anything.
"We appreciate the thorough police investigation, the dedication of the jury and all those involved in this lengthy court case and especially the people who bravely came to court to give evidence. We also want to thank the many people who have sent us love and good wishes throughout this ordeal. The outpouring of grief at her death is the best and most faithful tribute to her memory and will not be erased".
Detective Superintendent Paul Barton, from Hampshire Police, said:
“Pennie was a loving mother who doted on all her children and was just starting a new chapter in her life with husband Pete.
“Her death brought together the local community and I would like to thank everyone who supported our investigation and came forward with information.
“Pennie’s murder must have come as to a shock to many, particularly those who saw our armed response in the following days as we searched for Justin Robertson, who went on the run as our prime suspect.
“The pressure we put on him meant he eventually did the right thing and handed himself in.
“Pennie’s body was found by her husband in the field where she tended her horses. This remote location was a challenge for the investigation team who worked hard to piece together the events leading to her death and the evidence needed to place Robertson at the scene and secure a conviction.
“Both Robertson and Ben Carr denied their involvement but our investigation linked the men and proved they plotted together to have Pennie killed.
“Robertson is an evil and cold killer who was motivated by a relatively small amount of money. His lies through this trial were evident to the jury.
“Carr had a long-term hatred for Pennie. He tried to silence her once and for all and knew Robertson would do anything for money. We never accepted his defence that he only wanted Pennie ‘frightened off,’ and neither did the jury. Carr planned her death in detail, ensuring he was out of the way at the time and had an alibi. This cold, calculated plan in my view makes him just as evil as Robertson.
“Both have now been found guilty and are facing the prospect of a lengthy jail term.
“Pennie's family have shown complete restraint throughout as they have had to listen to lies about her during the trial. I would like to pay tribute to them and hope they can now seek some sort of closure following this painful experience.
“I would also like to thank all my officers and staff who were committed to this investigation and who, along with the Crown Prosecution Service and wider prosecution team, worked tirelessly to bring the offenders to justice. The team’s professionalism is evidence of the constabulary’s high standards of investigation and our dedication to the communities we serve.”