Southern Daily Echo | 19 Dec 2002 |
Stephanie Hancock was a teenager at school when she first set eyes on Philip Caswell – but little did she know that his cannabis addiction would eventually kill her.
“IF I can’t have you no-one will.”
That was the chilling promise made to Stephanie Hancock, 22, by her partner Philip Caswell, who yesterday admitted her murder.
She was strangled, battered and stabbed at her Hampshire home. Winchester Crown Court heard how Caswell, 31, was unable to accept their relationship had ended. Days before the murder he told a friend that he would “probably kill her”.
He fulfilled his promise on July 22 by murdering Stephanie as she slept at their home on Pegasus Close, Gosport.
The court also heard how Caswell suffered from a personality disorder because of a long-term dependence on cannabis.
In handing down a sentence of life imprisonment for murder, the judge, Mr Justice Poole, said: “You suffered abnormality of mind associated with cannabis abuse but it was not abnormal enough to impair your responsibility for carrying out the killing.”
STEPHANIE Hancock was a teenager at school when she first set eyes on Philip Caswell – but little did she know that his cannabis addiction would eventually kill her.
At the age of 15, while she was a pupil at Brune Park School, she first set eyes on the then 23-year-old and was smitten.
A year later, in 1994, Stephanie moved with her parents, Caroline and Steve, to Banbury in Oxfordshire – and Caswell followed.
Last year the couple returned to the Hampshire town where they first fell in love and set up home in a housing association flat in Pegasus Close, Gosport.
Neighbours described the pretty 22-year-old as a devoted mother. But all was not well in the couple’s seven-year relationship.
Stephanie confided in close friends she wanted Caswell to leave – but he would not go.
He told her that if he could not have her, no one would.
In the early hours of Monday, July 22, this year he kept to his promise by brutally killing her as she slept. Yesterday, a weeping Caswell, 31, pleaded guilty to murdering the Royal Naval officer’s daughter by strangling and battering her in their bedroom.
It emerged at Winchester Crown Court that Caswell’s cannabis addiction – he had smoked the drug every day since the age of 17 – had worsened his personality disorder.
Anthony Donne QC, prosecuting, said unemployed Caswell was unable to accept that his girlfriend wanted to end the relationship.
On the fateful day, Caswell punched her, smashed her head against the wall and strangled her with a cord.
He then went to the kitchen, got a knife and stabbed her four times in the back.
Mr Donne QC added that Caswell’s mother had described him as “very selfish” with a “foul and violent temper.”
He told the court that evidence showed a history of violence in the relationship.
Towards the end, Stephanie told Caswell she was going to end the relationship, but every time he started crying.
“She woke up and found the defendant looking down on her and snarling ‘I am going to kill you'”, said Mr Donne QC.
“About a week before the death the defendant and a close friend went out together for a bike ride.
“When they stopped the friend realised the defendant was crying and asked what was wrong. Caswell turned to him and said: ‘If I can’t have her no one will.’
“Asked what he meant by that the defendant said: ‘I will probably kill her.'”
A post-mortem examination revealed the cause of death was strangulation. Today Caswell is starting a life sentence for the gruesome murder.
Stephanie’s sister Shona Hancock, 20, who lives in Banbury, Oxfordshire, said the family was satisfied with the result of the court case although they realised Caswell could be free in little more than ten years.
Shona said: “We are glad it is all over and Stephanie can now rest in peace.”
Caswell also admitted assault causing grievous bodily harm on a boy who cannot be named for legal reasons. He denied the attempted murder of a girl, who also cannot be named.
Nick Atkinson, mitigating, said Caswell had smoked cannabis almost every day since he was 17.
He said the constant drug abuse had worsened an anti-social personality disorder.
“It continued to maintain him in an unreal cloud of existence,” said Mr Atkinson, who added that Caswell suffered from low self-esteem and poor coping skills.
Sentencing, the judge, Mr Justice Poole said: “She died of strangulation. Your reaction was that you felt relief and felt you had done her a favour. You had not done her a favour.
“You suffered abnormality of mind associated with cannabis abuse but it was not abnormal enough to impair your responsibility for carrying out the killing.”
The judge ordered a not-guilty plea to be entered on the attempted murder charge of the boy.
He said the similar charge against the girl should remain on file.
After the case neighbours spoke of their shock that something so awful could happen in their quiet cul-de-sac.
Telesales operator Greg Heaton, 17, who lived on the top floor of the block of flats had become a close friend with Caswell.
“I can’t believe what happened. I would not expect him to do that to his girlfriend.
“I remember I used to take their shopping in and spend evenings round his flat.
“They seemed to be getting on all right. Stephanie was a nice lady, always smiling. I’m sure she will be missed.”
Cara MacDowall, spokeswoman for the UK’s leading drugs charity Drugscope, said: “While the vast majority of cannabis users use the drug with no long-term detrimental effects it’s important to remember that for some, cannabis can be a harmful drug that can lead to panic attacks, paranoia and confused feelings.”