1. ITV Report

Life behind bars for wife killer

Ivan Esack, 38, who stabbed his estranged wife Natalie Esack 33, to death at her high street hair salon. Photo: Kent Police

A controlling former policeman found guilty of murdering his estranged wife at her high street hair salon has been sentenced to life in jail with a minimum term of 28 years.

A judge said Ivan Esack planned the killing "to the minute" before he knifed Natalie Esack, 33, up to 11 times because he could not cope with her being with someone else.

The 8in blade bent and the tip broke off under the ferocity of the attack at Esack Hair and Beauty in High Street, Ashford, Kent, on April 30 last year.

Following the stabbing, Esack, 38, turned to his estranged wife's colleague Chelsea Ford, then 17, and said: "She deserved it, the bitch."

In the period before the killing, he told Mrs Esack she was a "dead woman walking" and added: "Tick tock, tick tock."

At Maidstone Crown Court on Friday, the ex-Kent Police detective constable turned aspiring football agent, of Rosewood Drive, Ashford, was found guilty of murder following a three-week trial.

Natalie Esack 33 Credit: Kent Police

Friends and relatives of Mrs Esack broke into applause after Judge Charles Byers said he would not be freed until authorities had judged him fit for release after at least 28 years behind bars.

The judge said Esack had "cut down and killed" his estranged wife while she was in the prime of her life, and had shown no remorse for his actions.

Judge Byers told him: "Not only did you take her precious life but in doing so you devastated the lives of so many around her.

"You had previously made her life a misery, subjecting her to repeated physical and verbal abuse."

He added: "And yet she never offered you any malice, not of any sort."

The judge said Mrs Esack decided to leave her husband after considerable threats.

He said: "You are a controlling man and the only way that you could continue to control her life was to take it from her."

He went on: "You had no other intention that day other than to kill her. This was a calculated, premeditated killing planned to the minute."

Judge Byers said the attack happened in her salon, "a place where she was entitled to feel safe", in front of her 17-year-old colleague, Chelsea Ford, whom he praised for her actions in the aftermath of the stabbing.

"No-one could have done more for the person she liked and loved so much," he said.

Concluding his sentencing remarks, he said: "I'm particularly concerned that, if you are released by such time as it's considered safe, that anyone who forms a relationship with you may be in danger."

In mitigation, defence counsel Oliver Saxby said of Esack: "He has unquestionably a lack of empathy and that surely must have played a part, if not in the killing itself, but in the way it was carried out and his conduct thereafter."

Esack hair salon in Ashford. Credit: ITV Meridian

After Esack's conviction on Friday, questions were asked about whether police missed opportunities to protect Mrs Esack from him.

It emerged that she had spoken to police four times about the abusive former policeman, from 2009 to just a month before she was murdered.

According to police, Mrs Esack was unwilling to support a prosecution, and failed to return phone calls and attend meetings because she did not want to harm his prospects.

No referral was made to the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, about the previous contact between the force and Mrs Esack and no disciplinary issues were found.

The case is now the subject of an independently chaired, multi-agency review which will report next month.

Defending the police's response, Detective Chief Inspector Paul Fotheringham, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said on Friday: "I'm not sure they were missed opportunities.

"Even though we don't necessarily need the victim of domestic abuse, we can look for other evidence and we do on a daily basis. Natalie consciously didn't want to harm Ivan's future."

Bisexual cocaine user Esack, who declined to give evidence at his trial, had admitted manslaughter, claiming his responsibility was diminished and that he was suffering from a mental condition.

He was said to have had a "narcissistic" personality and falsely boasted that, through his footballing contacts, he was friends with Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson and Rio Ferdinand.

Stockily-built Esack, who claimed to have been rejected as a local Conservative Party candidate, had ideas of becoming prime minister and thought of himself as a James Bond-style figure.

It also emerged during his trial that he had had an affair with a man. He once told Mrs Esack she should be tested for sexually transmitted diseases after disclosing the gay love affair to her, jurors heard.

Prosecutor Philip Bennetts QC said Esack was a "violent and controlling" man who, unable to deal with the separation, killed his estranged wife "because he didn't want her to be with anyone else".

Esack bought the knife from a Sainsbury's store in Ashford moments before stabbing Mrs Esack for starting a relationship with Justin Khadaroo after they split up.

CCTV footage showed him parking his car before he walked to the hair salon the couple set up in January 2008.

He made sure she was working that day by earlier telephoning the salon and asking Miss Ford, now 18, what time her first appointment was.

As he strolled in with the knife, Mrs Esack was on a computer at reception. He "mumbled something" before lashing out at her, sending blood flying up the walls.

He stabbed Mrs Esack between nine and 11 times, including in the neck and the chest, in an attack lasting about 20 seconds.

Outside court on Friday, Mrs Esack's father, Jim Wilkinson, told reporters: "What can I say? Justice has been done. We are very happy with the result."

In a statement, Miss Ford called Mrs Esack "my closest best friend".

She added: "The world has lost a woman who wasn't just beautiful on the outside but a special, caring person who'd help anyone she could."

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