Bexhill mother 'strangled to death while seven-month-old daughter was in the room'

Kayleigh Hanks. Picture supplied by Sussex Police
Kayleigh Hanks. Picture supplied by Sussex Police

A Bexhill mother was strangled to death by her partner while their seven-month-old daughter was in the room, a court has heard.

Care assistant Kayleigh Hanks died at her London Road flat on July 21, 2019, at the age of 29.

Her partner Ian Paton, 36, of Snowdrop Rise, St Leonards, is accused of murdering her. He denies the charge.

At Hove Crown Court, on Wednesday (January 22), Alexandra Healy QC, prosecuting, told the court a row had developed between the couple on the evening of July 20, 2019 about Miss Hanks' friendship with another man.

Shortly after midnight on July 21, Mr Paton called 999, asked for police, and said: "I think I restrained her too hard and she’d stopped breathing."

The court heard, on July 20, 2019, the couple had visited Miss Hanks' sister Emma, where they bumped into Miss Hanks' friend Ashley Boxall. Miss Hanks and Mr Paton left together to go home at 6.30pm, the court heard.

Ms Healy told the jury that, while at home, an argument developed between Miss Hanks and Mr Paton about Mr Boxall's friendship with Miss Hanks which was 'perhaps precipitated by her having spoken to him that afternoon'.

At 10.50pm, a text from Miss Hanks' phone was sent to Mr Boxall which read: "Have we ever had an affair or can you call me as I knew I would be being accused of it.”

Half an hour later, at 11.19pm, Mr Boxall responded: “An affair, are you kidding me!!!, we’ve known each other for years and there’s never once been even the slightest hint of anything ever happening between us, we’re friends thats it.”

More than an hour later, at 12.34am on July 21, Mr Paton called 999 and asked for the police.

On the call, he said: “Me and my partner have had an argument. We were in separate rooms and she’s...I come back into the other room she’s .... She went for me, she had a knife, I restrained her and she is on the floor now..I think I restrained her too hard and she’d stopped breathing.”

In police interviews after he was arrested, Mr Paton said Miss Hanks had been looking through messages on his phone and, because she suspected him of cheating on her, 'charged' at him with a knife.

He said: "I thought she was going to kill me. I thought because she felt that she had...got me for cheating. I’ve cheated on her, that’s it, it’s clear, it’s ...it’s confirmed in her head now...she...she came at me and then, and then we grappled. She cut...we went in to the chest of drawers... (my daughter) was in the cot...she ...I held her arm at one point, I and then I held her throat... and I pushed...we grappled and then we ended up on the floor and I and I and she still had the knife and she....i held her throat.

"Held her throat and then..And then blood came out of her nose, she just, she was still fighting with me and blood came out of her nose..."

He claimed he had suffered cuts to his arm and hands during the fight with Miss Hanks.

Addressing the jury, Ms Healy added: "The defendant claims he was acting in self-defence when he strangled Kayleigh Hanks. He says that Kayleigh charged at him with a knife and he believed she was going to kill him. He says that she continued to fight him with the knife throughout the time he was holding her by the neck. He claimed that he sustained the cuts to his arm as a result of that knife attack on him.

"The prosecution case is that this is a lie. The defendant has fabricated this defence. He cut himself in order to make it look as though he had been injured by Kayleigh brandishing the knife at him.

"He did not call an ambulance when he realised Kayleigh had stopped moving. Instead, the prosecution say, he set about laying the groundwork for this false defence, cutting himself with the knife and placing the knife near Kayleigh’s body.

"Even when he eventually called the emergency services it was not an ambulance he asked for, but the police.

"He murdered Kayleigh Hanks by strangling her in the presence of their seven month old baby daughter."

Ms Healy told the court that Miss Hanks and Mr Paton had a 'volatile and on-off relationship for about three years', in which they argued regularly.

Miss Hanks had confided in her supervisor at the Lennox Lodge care home where she worked, Natasha Stevens, about two incidents in 2018 while she was pregnant.

She told her colleague that she and Mr Paton had been in a parked car arguing when Mr Paton grabbed hold of the back of her neck and slammed her face into the dashboard of the car, the court heard.

On another occasion, Miss Hanks told her colleague, Mr Paton had pinned her against the wall by her throat during an argument.

Ms Healy said on one occasion, while in the presence of her sister, Mr Paton demanded Miss Hanks got on her knees and declared her love for him.

Speaking behind a screen, Emma Hanks said Mr Paton's relationship with her sister was 'ok at the beginning and then toxic'.

Ms Healy said Miss Hanks was 'over the moon' when she discovered she was pregnant as an earlier ectopic pregnancy meant she could not have children.

She told the court the couple had broken up a few weeks into the pregnancy but shortly after their daughter was born in December 2018, Miss Hanks and Mr Paton got back together.

The trial, at Hove Crown Court, continues.