18 years minimum for Sowerby murderer Malcolm Cromie

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A mother-of-four who was brutally stabbed to death in the kitchen of her West Yorkshire home was described as “loving and caring” mum who couldn’t be replaced.

Mahala Rhodes, 42, died in May at her home in Rooley Heights, Sowerby, after her obsessed partner Malcolm Cromie plunged a knife into her chest.

The couple’s distressed young daughter raised the alarm, but when Miss Rhodes 19-year-old son Conor tried desperately to save her life Cromie told him he was wasting his time and that she deserved it.

After the stabbing the callous 45-year-old knifed himself five times in the chest and abdomen and during his trial at Bradford Crown Court this week he claimed that he had been attacked by Miss Rhodes.

But the jury found him guilty of murder and today Judge Peter Benson branded his remarks and actions as wicked and heartless.

The judge referred to a victim impact statement from Miss Rhodes’ mum Angela Scott in which she described her daughter as “loving and caring” and she said her son had been devastated by the loss of his sister.

“How can we ever replace her? We can’t,” said her mum.

Miss Rhodes’ cousin Taje Sienciewicz said she was “a fantastic mum” and Judge Benson commended Conor, who gave evidence during the trial, and the family for their diginity throughout the case.

“No sentence I can pass on you will in any way compensate that family for the dreadful loss which you have inflicted upon them,” the judge told Cromie.

A few minutes before her death Miss Rhodes had been browsing the internet for fabrics and furnishings and Judge Benson said Cromie’s previous threats towards her had made him sure that he intended to kill her when he attacked her with the knife.

The couple’s volatile on-off relationship had lasted about eight years and in 2008 Cromie was given a community order for assaulting Miss Rhodes and ordered to take part in a domestic violence programme.

The court heard he made a series of false allegations about Miss Rhodes and Judge Benson said Cromie had become obsessed with trying to get control over their daughter.

Judge Benson said it was difficult to know what the impact on the child would be after witnessing some part of the attack, but her presence in the house was an aggravating feature of the case.

The judge told Cromie, who showed no emotion during his sentencing, that he would be jailed for life for the murder and he would have to serve a minimum of 18 years behind bars before being considered for release by the Parole Board.

But he stressed that Cromie’s release would only happen if the board was satisfied he no longer posed a risk to the public.