A joiner accused of murdering a hotel landlady dramatically hanged himself in a prison cell while awaiting the final verdict in his nine-day trial.
John Heald, 53, was found dead on I wing at Hull Prison after being sent overnight on remand from Hull Crown Court while the jury were still considering verdicts.
The jury had been out just two hours and Heald had publicly admitted suicidal thoughts to the jury.
Heald of Foljambe Road, Rotherham, admitted killing Bei Carter, 49, at the Morayland Hotel in Bridlington but claimed it was a “tugging and pulling” accident. He had gone on the run from the police for five days after allegedly raping a woman from the Sheffield area at knife point three times picking the Morayland Hotel by chance.
The jury were deliberating one charge of murder and three charges of rape. They were brought into Hull Crown Court this morning (Feb 6) at 10.30am to be told by Judge Jeremy Richardson, QC. “A problem has arisen. Please do not speculate what it is. I must ask you to stop deliberating at the moment. I must ask you to come back in at 12 o’clock . I will then be in a position to inform you what it is. I insist you do not speculate. Don’t talk to each other about the case. Stop your deliberation. When you come back into court I will tell you what it is.”
The judge imposed a section 42 order under the contempt of court act to ban all reporting of what has been said before the jury until after 12 noon.
Humberside Detective Chief Inspector Matthew Baldwin was called in to the witness box and told the Crown barrister: “I was informed overnight that Mr Heald had killed himself. I went to Hull prison I wing at 10.40am this morning and saw a man I know as John Heald. I can confirm he is deceased. He had hung himself overnight. It is the same John Heald who had stood a trial for murder and rape at this Crown Court.”
Crown barrister Graham Reed said there was a procedure for marking the indictment to say Heald was dead and there would be no further action taken by the Crown.
At 12 noon Judge Jeremy Richardson, QC, summoned the jury and told them: “I am now in a position to tell you what has happened. The defendant committed suicide last night. I was advised this morning and have heard evidence that he is deceased. You are discharged from any further deliberation. I can see by you faces that it has come as quite a shock. It came as a shock to me.”
He said because of the events they would be discharged from further jury service for five years because the murder case had ended in the way it did.
Heald, who worked in the building trade told the jury he went to Bridlington five days later depressed. He admitted he had won between £60,000 and £70,000 on the English and Irish lotteries and it was pure chance that he had chosen to stay at the Morayland Hotel never having been there before.
He said he checked in with a bottle of vodka, a knife and 200 tablets contemplating what had happened. He admitted: “Suicidal thoughts were on my mind. I indented to mix the tablets with drink. I was hoping it would end my life.”
Heald said he had spent the day in Bridlington before hearing two men had recognised him as wanted by the police on Facebook. He said “I was panicking, sweating and scared. I just wanted to get away. I wanted to get out of Bridlington. I did not feel comfortable. I wanted to get back to Rotherham. I left my room. . The next thing I got tap on my shoulder. I turned around. The lady was stood there. I did not realise it was her at first. I thought it was one of the lads. She grabbed the knife. I wanted to pull the knife away. She started tugging and pulling. She was pulling one way. I was pulling the other way. I did not intend to stab her.
“I did not realise the knife had stabbed her. I thought she was still breathing. I grabbed her arm in to the room. I just wanted to get out of Bridlington. I just panicked. I thought I would have time to get out the hotel and get away from the place. I just thought she was knocked out and had hit her head on the door.”
The court was told of his previous convictions. He was jailed for six months aged 22 in 1983 for possession of an offensive weapon, threatening behaviour and assaulting a police officer. He was fined for threatening behaviour when he was 23 and aged 24 was jailed for six months for burglary and for two counts of causing actual bodily harm. He had a further conviction for threatening behaviour in 1985 and served his most recent prison sentence in 1992 for disorder.
Terry Carter and Mrs Carter’s sister attended court throughout the hearing
In a statement read to the jury Mr Terry Carter said the couple had moved to the Moryland just two months before after wanting a guest house business near the coast after returning from living in China. He said he met his wife, originally a Chinese citizen, 22 years ago at a concert in Nottingham and began living together 12 months later having two daughters.
Mr Carter, said he had visited his mother at Bridlington Hospital earlier in the evening on July 18 and became increasingly concerned that he had not seen his wife for some time after returning.
At about 11pm, he called her mobile but heard it ringing in the sitting room. He remembered she had been working in Room 5 and went upstairs to find the door locked. “I opened it and she was lying on the floor. It’s a narrow entrance and the bed is off to the right. I couldn’t think anything at first – if anything, ‘I’ve found you’.
“But from the way it was, she was actually lying perfectly on her back.
“Her feet were facing the floor but her hands were on her chest and looked bloody, and I wondered why. Her eyes were open. I wondered if she’d knocked her mouth in some way. It wasn’t a natural position. “I’m sure the lights were on. I did touch her. I shouted her name and she didn’t respond.
“I remember her eyes, her feet, her hands, and the curtains Bei had been working on were hanging up; it looked like she had finished them.
“I knew that she was dead at that point. She was dressed exactly the same as she was in the morning; I’ve never seen that dress before.”
Mr Carter said his wife was a fantastic artist whose work had been shown in exhibitions.”My wife was the perfect partner to get along with. I couldn’t see her being confrontational with anyone.
“She would back down, she wouldn’t know what to do.”