Killer Gets Life For Woman's Murder

A convicted killer who stabbed a woman to death in her flat just hours after meeting her was jailed for life today for her murder, police said.

David Baxendale subjected Sarah Thomas, 38, from Nutfield, Surrey, to a ferocious attack which left her with multiple injuries including a fatal knife wound to the neck in May last year.

The 40-year-old then fled the country on a ferry and travelled to southern Spain where he had been jailed for a previous murder in 2001.

An extensive investigation by Surrey Police's major crime investigation team pinpointed Baxendale as the prime suspect and detectives tracked his movements through Europe.

He was caught in Spain when a holidaymaker recognised him from a media appeal and he was arrested by local police and extradited to Britain to face justice.

Baxendale, who has a history of violence dating back 20 years, was found guilty of murder by a jury at Guildford Crown Court following a three-week trial and sentenced to a whole life term, a spokesman for Surrey Police said.

The court heard that at the time of her death, Miss Thomas was known to keep company with a number of people who had alcohol-related or other anti-social problems.

On the afternoon of May 10 she met Baxendale at a friend's flat in Redhill and the pair caught a taxi back to her flat at around 5pm.

Miss Thomas's boyfriend, David Bowden, tried to call her as he was concerned for her safety but by the time he got to the flat he found her lying on the living room floor covered in blood.

Although the emergency services arrived shortly after, they were unable to revive the mother of three and she died at the scene.

Baxendale, who had been drinking during the day, was spotted running from the building and witnesses saw him in the Nutfield area over the next hour-and-a-half.

A knife, which was found to have both Baxendale's and Miss Thomas's blood on it, was later discovered near a tree, while a plastic bag containing his blood-stained jacket was found under a bench in a garden.

Baxendale ran through a number of fields and paths before eventually catching a taxi to Walton-on-the-Hill where his mother lived.

A bag was later found containing a T-shirt and jeans with the defendant's DNA on them, along with a pair of trainers stained with Miss Thomas's blood, hidden in a hedge in a nearby lane.

Baxendale's fingerprints were also found in Miss Thomas's blood in her flat and on the neck of a Bacardi bottle.

The day after the murder he made his way to Portsmouth where he was seen shaving his head in the public toilets of a local shopping centre. He later used his brother's passport to book a one-way ticket to St Malo in France, departing on a ferry that evening, the spokesman said.

He gradually made his way to Fuengirola near Marbella in Spain where he was arrested on June 21 after a member of the public recognised him as a man he had met in a bar while on holiday.

Baxendale was flown back to Heathrow Airport, accompanied by Surrey officers, and declined to be interviewed.