A man accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend and dumping her body close to a lay-by was “physically abusive” towards her in the months before her death, a court has heard.
Darren Hall, 36, denies killing Sarah Henshaw at her home in Ilkeston, Derbyshire – and disposing of her body 20 miles away in woodland close to the westbound A617 near Chesterfield in June.
Derby Crown Court heard on Friday that Ms Henshaw was “beaten up” by Hall after the pair attended an N-Dubz concert in Manchester in December last year.
Chloe Crofts, who was in a relationship with Ms Henshaw’s brother at the time, told the court they were woken up by the 31-year-old in the night.
“At two, three o’clock we got a banging on the door. It was Sarah,” she said. “She was in a state. He had beaten her up.”
Ms Crofts, giving evidence from behind a curtain, added: “(She was) upset, crying, angry, just did not know what to do with herself. She had bruises all over her. She said ‘he has beaten me up’.”
When asked by prosecutor Michelle Heeley KC what injuries Ms Henshaw had sustained, Ms Crofts said: “There was a bruise on her eye, bruises on her arms and later that morning she showed me her legs and there were bruises on her legs and one around her neck.”
Ms Heeley asked: “Other than saying he had beaten her up, did she give any details about how that happened?”
Ms Crofts replied: “The bruise on her leg, she said that he had stamped on her.”
Ms Heeley asked: “When she said ‘he’, who was she referring to?”
“Darren Hall,” Ms Crofts replied.
Ms Crofts said she took photos of the injuries on her phone because Ms Henshaw asked her to. These images were shown to the jury.
Ms Croft also told jurors that throughout Hall and Ms Henshaw’s relationship, he “always wanted to know where she was, what she was doing and who she was with”.
In cross-examination, defence KC Andrew Vout asked whether Ms Henshaw had mentioned she had drunk “two bottles of wine” at the concert and had repeatedly fallen over, including into parked cars, before returning from the gig.
Ms Crofts said she could not recall Ms Henshaw mentioning it, but that she did not believe Ms Henshaw was drunk.
The Crown alleges Hall killed Ms Henshaw on the night of 20 June and “callously dumped” her body.
He used Ms Henshaw’s phone to text friends and neighbours to pretend she was still alive, telling them that she had gone missing while disposing of her belongings at a recycling centre and in a skip, Ms Heeley told the court on Wednesday.
Ms Henshaw was last seen alive on the evening of 20 June, with her body not discovered until six days later.
After his arrest, Hall told police Ms Henshaw fell down the stairs during an argument, but Ms Heeley said there were no marks on the stairs and bruising found on Ms Henshaw’s neck was “about the width of a dressing gown cord”.
In his evidence, Ms Henshaw’s brother, Callum Stevenson, said he also saw Hall “get quite physically abusive” towards his sister in an incident at the defendant’s address in Ilkeston in 2016.
“Sarah was going up the stairs and Darren grabbed her by the arm and neck and pushed her into the bedroom,” he said.
He also told jurors he overheard his sister telling their mother about physical abuse on “multiple occasions” and accused Hall of “being emotionally abusive at the same time”.
“I can’t give specifics of what he did to her but it was, a lot of the time, physical abuse,” he said. “Sometimes she had bruises to her arms, face and so on.”
Mr Stevenson said he also recalled the incident after the N-Dubz concert, and that Ms Henshaw had said “Darren had beaten her up”.
The trial continues.