Bradford man jailed for murder of his pregnant partner at Christmas

Nicola Woodman would have celebrated her 40th birthday today.
Nicola Woodman would have celebrated her 40th birthday today.
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A pregnant mother-of-two was horrifically murdered on Christmas Day by a jealous partner who wrongly believed she was cheating on him.

James Hutchinson, 43, was today sentenced to life in jail for a minimum of 23 years, after he pleaded guilty to murdering 39-year-old Nicola Woodman at her home in Bankholme Court, Bradford last year.

James Hutchinson, 43, was described as "wicked" by the judge as he sentenced him to a life term.

James Hutchinson, 43, was described as "wicked" by the judge as he sentenced him to a life term.

A court heard how Miss Woodman, who worked for the NHS, suffered at least 102 external injuries, including more than 20 stab wounds, during an attack which involved the use of two knives and a wooden pick-axe handle.

When her badly injured body was discovered at the house on Boxing Day police officers also found a pregnancy test kit nearby and prosecutor Jonathan Sharp confirmed that DNA analysis had proved that Hutchinson was the father of the unborn child.

Bradford Crown Court heard that today would have been her 40th birthday and Mr Sharp read from her parents’ moving victim personal statements in which they spoke of their unbearable loss.

Her father Arthur Woodman described his daughter’s death as “a hammer blow” and said she had paid the “ultimate penalty” for staying with Hutchinson.

Mr Woodman said he felt hatred towards Hutchinson and Miss Woodman’s mother Joyce Bird said her death had left a “massive hole” in their lives.

She said Christmas would be extra hard because that was when they lost their daughter.

“I will never forgive him,” she added.

Unemployed Hutchinson, who was often drunk and a user of heroin and cocaine, had been remanded in prison for another offence before being released on conditional bail in mid-November.

Mr Sharp said Hutchinson should have been staying at his uncle’s home and he was in breach of his bail when he went to stay with Miss Woodman on Christmas Eve.

“Either while he was in custody or shortly afterwards he began to become obsessed with the idea that Nicola was being unfaithful to him,” said Mr Sharp.

The prosecutor said there was absolutely no evidence to justify Hutchinson’s “delusional jealousy” and he had not even read a letter written by Miss Woodman in which she expressed her love for him and her frustration with his behaviour.

In the letter she said she needed Hutchinson and had put herself completely at his mercy.

“We deserve happiness James. We deserve our future,” the letter ended.

After the murder Hutchinson ransacked the house trying to find evidence, such as a secret phone, to justify his suspicions, but he then went to bed before going out the next day to get methadone and drugs.

He eventually rang 999 at tea-time on Boxing Day saying: “My partner’s been stabbed. She’s been there 12 hours, I think she’s dead.”

After watching the emergency services arrive he drove off in Miss Woodman’s car and was arrested in the early hours of the following morning asleep in the vehicle.

He told police that he had challenged Miss Woodman about her supposed infidelity but her repeated denials only enraged him.

“People just snap, you know what I mean,” he told police.

“She was six weeks pregnant, (I was) only out of prison four. I was in three weeks.”

Hutchinson’s barrister Michelle Colborne QC suggested that the pregnancy test had tipped her client over the edge.

Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC stressed that after serving 23 years Hutchinson would only be released if the Parole Board decided it was safe.

He said Miss Woodman had been a good woman who had fallen in love with a thoroughly bad man.

“You sponged off her... and she loved you to the bitter end,” said the judge.

“You are not ill. You are wicked.

“The attack was frenzied, it was cruel, it was with a ferocity that defies belief even in the hardened experience of this court.

“You say it took an hour. It must have been a nightmare and a lifetime for Nicola and she must have known what was happening.”

After the hearing, Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Spencer, of West Yorkshire Police’s Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, said: “Nicola’s family are understandably overwhelmed and devastated by grief. 

“Hutchinson’s callous and calculating actions can only be described as monstrous. 

“I would like to praise Nicola’s family for the strength and dignity they have shown throughout and hope, in some small way, the sentence imposed upon Hutchinson today may give them family some satisfaction that justice has been done, and whilst it can never bring Nicola back, help them to begin to move forward with their lives.”

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