‘Extreme violence’ - Court told of woman’s horrific injuries at the hands of man victim dubbed a ‘punching machine’

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A 44-year-old woman who died at house in Shelf earlier this year had suffered more than 80 injuries to her face, head and body.

Marie Johnston had been staying at the home of Matthew Dean in Soaper Lane when he subjected her to repeated assaults which included violently twisting her neck and head.

Prosecutor Tim Capstick told Bradford Crown Court this morning (Friday) that the deceased, whose cause of death was still unknown, had suffered a brain injury during the assaults and her other injuries were caused by punches, stamps or kicks.

Dean, 34, pleaded guilty last month to a charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent and he had been due to be sentenced for that offence today, but after hearing details of the prosecution case Judge Robert Bartfield decided to adjourn the hearing until November for a dangerousness assessment.

The court heard that Dean didn’t have a recollection of the majority of the violence, but he accepted that it could only have happened while the deceased was in his company.

Mr Capstick said Dean called paramedics to his home on the evening of April 2 and they found Marie Jonhston lying on the bedroom floor.

The scene at Soaper Lane

The scene at Soaper Lane

“It was apparent she had a number of injuries to her face, upper body and limbs,” said Mr Capstick.

“She was examined and pronounced dead at the scene.”

Dean told police that they had had an on-off relationship for six years and that the deceased had a drink problem.

He claimed that she had turned up at his home “extremely drunk” and covered in blood.

Dean suggested that he had put her to bed, but when he later tried to wake he found that she was cold to the touch and he contacted the emergency services.

Mr Capstick said inquiries revealed both Dean and the deceased had problems with drink and their relationship had been a volatile one.

He said previous incidents had been reported but they had not resulted in Dean being prosecuted for any offence against Marie Johnston primarily because she refused to assist the police or attend court.

Mr Capstick said the initial post mortem failed to establish a cause of death, but it revealed that the deceased had suffered no fewer than 86 recent visible injuries.

The catalogue of injuries included 25 to her head, face and neck, a laceration to the liver, 14 separate areas of bruising to the back of the victim’s torso and a fractured rib.

Mr Capstick said the reality was that there must have more than one assault while the deceased was staying at Dean’s home.

As part of the police inquiry officers spoke to another man and he told them that the deceased had described Dean as “a punching machine”.

Mr Capstick submitted that Marie Johnston had been vulnerable because of the difficulties in her life and added:”She had come to this man’s house seeking help, accommodation and shelter and he had treated her in this manner.”

Dean, who is remanded in custody, is facing a lengthy jail sentence for causing grievous bodily harm with intent, but Judge Bartfield said he was troubled by the issue of whether the defendant should be dealt with as a dangerous offender.

“This is extreme violence,” noted the judge.

“I sit on cases of this kind on many occasions, but this is right at the high end of the scale.”

The judge said the defence should have the opportunity to put either psychological or psychiatric assessments before the court before he finally passes sentence on Dean.

The sentence hearing is now expected to take place on November 4.