On 14th April 2014 Ashley Williams (49) was convicted of the murder of Julie Beattie, his 24 year old former partner and sentenced to life imprisonment. The tariff, minimum period that Mr Williams will have to serve before he could be considered for release, was set at 25 years.
The attack was a brutal one, set against a backdrop of controlling behaviour by Mr Williams. On 19th July 2013 he repeatedly hit her around the head with a hammer. The initial attack with the hammer did not kill Ms Beattie and after that Mr Williams doused “her with a cocktail of diesel and petrol and setting her on fire” in front of her child and other family members. After that, Mr Williams ran off and slit his wrists, where he was found in a local park. It seems that the trigger for the killing was that Ms Beattie informed Mr Williams that she was leaving him for his 19 year old son.
Why 25 years? We don’t have the sentencing remarks, but would imagine it was analysed this way – there were factors that pointed to a higher seriousness (a 30 year starting point) – the extreme brutality and the fact of setting Ms Beattie on fire before she died. However, the starting point is still, technically, 15 years (it doesn’t seem that this was a murder where the hammer was brought to the scene).
However, the features mentioned above increase the seriousness greatly (although we would have thought not as much as ten years). There were some mitigating features as well – there was no premeditation and it appears that Mr Williams accepted killing Ms Beattie (the issue at trial was probably whether it should be manslaughter because of loss of control), so we would expect an appeal.