Jealous murderer Joe Atkinson jailed for life over brutal killing of girlfriend Poppy Devey Waterhouse as she was about to leave him

A maths graduate who murdered his girlfriend in a frenzied knife attack in a 'jealous rage' at their flat in Leeds is today starting a life sentence.

By Tony Gardner
Friday, 12th April 2019, 3:14 pm
Updated Friday, 12th April 2019, 3:59 pm


A maths graduate who murdered his girlfriend in a frenzied knife attack in a 'jealous rage' at their flat in Leeds is today starting a life sentence.

Joe Atkinson stabbed Poppy Devey Waterhouse 49 times to the head and body after he turned into a 'Jekyll and Hyde character' as he struggled to cope with the break-up of their relationship.

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Poppy Waterhouse Devey was murdered by her jealous ex boyfriend Joe Atkinson who has been jailed for life with a minimum tariff of 15 years and 310 days

Atkinson was told he must serve a minimum of 16 years and two months after pleading guilty to her murder in the early hours of December 14 last year.

Emergency services found Miss Devey Waterhouse's body in a pool of blood in the apartment at Saxton Flats, Richmond Hill.

Atkinson attacked his partner of three years as she was a sleep in bed when he came home drunk from a work's Christmas night out in Leeds city centre.

Prosecutor Jason Pitter QC told a packed courtroom how Miss Devey Waterhouse had been subjected to a "harrowing" attack in which she fought to save herself and desperately tried to escape the flat.

Joe Atkinson killed his ex-girlfriend in a jealous rage

The 24-year-old's injuries included 49 knife blows, including 23 separate stab wounds to the head and neck.

Two of the knife blows were delivered with such force that they punctured her skull and there was evidence that her hair had been pulled from her scalp.

The court heard that Miss Devey Waterhouse and Aktinson were in the process of splitting up at the time of the killing.

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The couple had told friends and family in October 2018 that the relationship was beginning to "flounder".

Miss Devey Waterhouse was due to move out of their flat on December 17 - three days before she was killed.

Mr Pitter said some of Atkinson's friends had described how he had struggled to cope with the break-up.

Towards the end of November Atkinson attacked Miss Devey Waterhouse's new boyfriend when he saw them together on a night out.

He said: "In a surprise and unprovoked attack he punched the man in the face twice. He was angry and swearing."

Mr Pitter said: "He was up and down about the break-up and was a Jekyll and Hyde character, trying to get her to change her mind, then seemed OK with it."

After the murder Atkinson went out in his car to get rid of clothing and the murder weapon.Read the full report from Leeds Crown Court here The court heard how he also tried to cover his tracks by cleaning up the flat.

Atkinson eventually rang emergency service at 8.40am after contacting his father.

Mr Pitter said: "The ambulance team were the first to arrive at the flat where they were let in by the defendant who had his bottoms on and no top and blood on his body.

"It was a distressing scene with large amounts of blood around the flat.

"Attempts were made to resuscitate her but she was obviously dead and had been for several hours."

Mr Pitter said Atkinson then formulated a "cynical" plan to blame Miss Devey Waterhouse for what happened.

He told police that she had tried to attack him with a knife during an argument.

The prosecutor said: "The prosecution reject any assertion that she was the aggressor at any stage."

He claimed he was too scared to call for an ambulance until he contacted his father who instructed him to contact emergency services.

Atkinson pleaded not guilty to murder at a court hearing in January but changed his plea to guilty last Friday.

During his confession to the killing he said: "I did not know how many times I stabbed her. I just didn't stop.

"I only stopped when it all went calm and she stopped moving."

The court heard Atkinson, a former Wetherby High School pupil, and Miss Devey Waterhouse, from Somerset, met when studying mathematics at Nottingham University.

Mr Pitter said: "This is a tragic case for all concerned.

"For those connected to the defendant and for those connected to Poppy Devey Waterhouse, who was a gifted mathematician, described as both bright and beautiful."

"(Her life was) cruelly and selfishly extinguished in the run-up to Christmas last year because the defendant realised he was not to be part of her future."

Richard Wright QC, for Atkinson, said the defendant had no previous convictions and had never been violent towards Miss Devey Waterhouse before.

Mr Wright said Atkinson felt "deeply-held sorrow and shame" for what he had done.

He said: "The thing that he did cannot be undone in any way and he must be punished for it."

He added: "His behaviour was in every way an utter aberration.

"The origin of violence of this sort had no logical explanation.

"It arose in temper. Temper fuelled in this case by jealousy."

Sentencing Atkinson, Mr Justice Lavender said: "Why did you do this appalling thing?

"You are yourself an intelligent and talented young man with a great job and prospects.

"You had never been in trouble with the police before this and there was no suggestion that you had been violent towards her before."