A man who battered his ex-girlfriend to death in a jealous rage and then sent messages pretending to be her as her body lay undiscovered has been jailed.
Steven Dunks, 45, from Rochdale was found guilty of the murder of Lynne Howarth, 43, at Manchester Crown Court on Friday 20 February. He was sentenced to life in prison and ordered to serve a minimum of 19 years.
Dunks and Howarth were involved in a volatile on-and-off relationship for about 18 months during which time Dunks was also dating another woman, splitting his time between the two women’s properties.
Then in July 2014, Lynne told her neighbours that they would no longer be seeing Dunks around as the pair had split and he was looking for somewhere else to live.
Later on that month Lynne met a new boyfriend through an internet dating site with neighbours describing her during this period as “really happy”.
In a chilling turn of events, a drunken Dunks appeared at Lynne’s flat in the early hours of Friday 18 July and confronted both Howarth and her new boyfriend, enraged that she had started a new relationship.
He threatened her new partner, screaming that he would “jump up and down on his head” and that he “would rather see her dead before seeing her with someone else”.
A week later, Lynne Howarth was dead.
On 27 July Dunks launched an enraged drunken attack on Howarth that left her with extensive head and facial injuries. So forceful was the attack that Lynne’s face was shattered and her jaw bone was detached from the rest of her skull. Dunks then rested her head on a towel and fled, taking the sim card from her phone and her bank card with him.
For a whole month Dunks spoke briefly to Howarth’s new partner and mother via Facebook and text message, pretending to be her in an attempt to cover his tracks. The crime began to unravel when mobile network data showed that between 27 July and 27 August Howarth’s sim card was used in a number of different mobile phones located mainly in the Shaw area of Rochdale.
This was highly unusual as Howarth’s agoraphobia – a fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult or help wouldn’t be available if things go wrong – meant that she rarely ever left Heywood. Dunks also used her bank cards, withdrawing a total of around £300 from machines in Shaw several times over the course of August.
It was not until Tuesday 26 August that Howarth’s body was discovered following complaints of a foul smell and swarms of flies on the windows of her flat. Officers attended and found her badly decomposed body with a blood-stained exfoliating glove that contained Dunks’s DNA.
When he was arrested on the 27 August Dunks denied he had murdered Lynne, stating that he had left her alive in bed when he had left that morning.
Detective Chief Inspector Richard Eales said: “Dunks was quite happy to string along two women at the same time but the thought of her moving on with her life and finding a new partner sent him into a terrible rage.
TNT News Siobhan White