Expert confirms alleged Sheffield murder victim's injuries were consistent with strangling

A pathologist has told a jury a woman who was allegedly murdered had suffered a compression to her neck over a long period which was consistent with strangulation.

Thursday, 25th February 2021, 2:35 pm

Sheffield Crown Court has heard during a trial how David Bestwick, aged 60, of Chesterfield Road, Sheffield, had been with 44-year-old mum Maria Howarth and her friends at the White Swan pub, at Greenhill, Sheffield, on September 5, before walking back with her to her home on nearby School Lane.

Richard Thyne, prosecuting, said Mr Bestwick had called police at 3.56am, on September 6, saying he had strangled his girlfriend and she was taken to Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital but her life support was withdrawn and she was pronounced dead on September 8.

Pathologist, Dr Naomi Carter, said she had been told Maria Howarth had been found unconscious lying on a setee in her lounge and was unresponsive.

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Pictured is deceased Maria Howarth, of School Lane, Greenhill, Sheffield, who was allegedly murdered.

She said: “Maria Howarth, a 44-year-old woman, was found unconscious in a collapsed state at home after she had been on a night-out in the company of friends.

"She was revived following resuscitation attempts but at no stage had she regained consciousness.”

Dr Carter added paramedics’ notes indicated police had undertaken CPR before Ms Howarth was taken to hospital but her situation was considered hopeless so her life support system was discontinued.

Her body had evidence of red dots known as petechiae, according to Dr Carter, in her face, eyes and mouth caused by raised blood pressure in the head or neck and such marks can be signs of asphyxia from pressure to the neck.

Pictured is Sheffield Crown Court.

Dr Carter added there was a “tide mark” from the jawline upwards and there were marks around her face and Adam’s apple.

She said Ms Howarth suffered extensive brain damage after the brain had been starved of oxygenated blood and the damage was unsurvivable.

Dr Carter added there was bruising to the left of Ms Howarth’s neck consistent with the time of her collapse and compression of the neck.

She said Ms Howarth had suffered a severe hypoxic ischaemic brain injury caused by an inadequate supply of oxygenated blood to her brain as a result of a cardiac arrest and the damage was unsurvivable.

Dr Carter said: “The findings are entirely in keeping with Ms Howarth suffering a compression of the neck and in other words strangulation.”

She added the compression must have been sustained for a long period.

Kama Melly, defending, confirmed with Dr Carter the findngs are consistent with the defendant’s account of manual strangulation but she also confirmed it is not possible to say how long any strangulation had taken place.

Mr Bestwick told police he put his arms around Ms Howarth to cuddle her after she had seemed disappointed with him after they had attempted to be sexually intimate and he found his hands around her neck and he had not intended to strangle her but said it had been like a “red mist”.

It appeared to have been known at the White Swan, according to Mr Thyne, that the defendant wanted a relationship but Ms Howarth did not feel the same.

Mr Bestwick has pleaded not guilty to murder. The trial continues.

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