Family of Sheffield mum strangled to death say murderer's defence was 'absolute rubbish'

The family of a single mum from Sheffield strangled to death at home while her daughter slept upstairs have dismissed her murderer’s defence as ‘absolute rubbish’.

By Steve Jones
Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 2:44 pm

Maria Howarth, 44, who had a 10-year-old girl, was killed by 60-year-old David Bestwick following a night at the White Swan pub, at Greenhill, with her friends on September 5.

Bestwick, of Chesterfield Road, denied murder but a jury at Sheffield Crown Court took under two hours to unanimously find him guilty and he was sentenced to life imprisonment on Monday.

Maria’s uncle, Mark Ellis, 55, said: "I was quite concerned about Maria’s reputation because what was said in court by him was absolute rubbish.

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Maria Howarth, who leaves behind a 10-year-old daughter.

"You could drive a bus through the holes in his statement. He was infatuated by her and he made up as much as he possibly could so it would look and come across as a crime of passion.”

Bestwick had claimed he loved Maria, who worked as a personal assistant, and they had been initimate.

But ex-marine Mark said: “There was none of that at all. All this about going upstairs and having sex when her daughter was playing downstairs on the setee was just absolute fantasy.

"Even the wording he used at certain points in his interview was just not how Maria would speak.”

The pair, who met through mutual friends at the White Swan, exchanged text messages on just three occasions in six months, Mark said, despite Bestwick’s claim they were in a relationship.

Mark said: “He had a flat so she could have gone there any time but she never did. She didn’t entertain gentlemen at her house for the simple fact her daughter could walk in at any time.

"It’s my opinion that they went into her house and they spoke about the fact she didn’t want to go out with him. Maria probably fell asleep after asking him to leave on numerous occasions, but Maria being Maria didn’t think he posed a threat."

Sheffield Crown Court heard Bestwick walked with Maria to her home on School Lane, Greenhill, about midnight. He called police four hours later and told them he had strangled ‘his girlfriend’.

Mark said: “If it’s a crime of passion, if you loved the person you attacked, you would have thought the first thing he would have done is ring the ambulance or get the neighbours.

"You would have done what any normal person would have done.”

Bestwick, who has previous convictions, must serve a minimum of 17 years before he can be released.

Mark said: “I think it’s pretty horrendous really but hopefully – and this is me being brutally honest – he will pass away in prison.

"He’s not only ruined our family’s lives but also his own sister, who is an elderly lady, has been put through all that heartache and upset.”

Mark’s wife Sally described her niece as ‘generous, kind and supportive’.

She added: “She was an amazing mother, sister and friend.”

On how Maria’s only child is coping without her mum, Mark said: "She seems to be OK on the outside and she likes to keep busy.

“We have got to move on but it’s phenomenally difficult to try and be strong for her until she’s ready to talk about it and come to terms with it.”

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Nancy Fielder, editor.