Leeds murder victim's mother calls for tougher sentences

A woman whose daughter was stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend in a jealous rage is calling on MPs to introduce tougher minimum sentences for so-called domestic murders.

24-year-old Poppy Devey Waterhouse was murdered in her flat, in Richmond Hill, Leeds, by her former partner Joe Atkinson in December 2018. 

He was jailed for at least 15 years, but Poppy's mother Julie believes knife murders in the home should be treated the same as stabbings in the street which usually warrant a minimum 25 year prison sentence.

Poppy was killed in the flat she shared with Atkinson. Credit: Google Maps

At Atkinson's sentencing hearing at Leeds Crown Court last year, prosecutors said he had been “fuelled by jealousy” when he inflicted a “long and brutal death” on Poppy who, like him, had a masters degree in maths.

He had failed to come to terms with Poppy breaking off their three-year relationship in October, having become a couple while they were studying in Nottingham.

She had been due to move out of the flat in Richmond Hill, Leeds, days after Atkinson came in during the early hours of December 14 and used the blade to inflict more than 100 injuries on her.

Now Poppy's mother has spoken to ITV Calendar as the Ministry of Justice published a White Paper on sentencing guidelines.

The proposals have yet to be debated by MPs, but Julie Devey says MPs should take this opportunity to level up the sentencing of killers, regardless of whether the murder has taken place in the home or the street.

Current sentencing guidelines state that where an offender took a knife or other weapon to the scene intending to commit any offence, or have it available to use as a weapon, and used that knife or other weapon in committing the murder, the normal starting point for a sentence is 25 years. 

The 25 year minimum sentence does not generally apply to knife murders in the home, which usually attract a minimum 15 year tariff.

Julie Devey said: "They can't be swept under the carpet because the word "domestic" seems to somehow diminish the murder and I  think a lot of people still think - oh a domestic, well it's just between those two people, that's sorted - well it isn't. These men are killing women...it's just diminished and it shouldn't be, it should be brought up with any other murder."

Joe Atkinson has been told he must spent at least 15 years behind bars. Credit: West Yorkshire Police/PA

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Poppy Devey Waterhouse was brutally murdered and we fully appreciate the horrific impact of such crimes on victims’ families.

“We are reforming sentencing through new legislation which will be brought next year, including measures which reduce the gap between the sentencing of older children and young adults for murder.

“It is for independent judges to decide the minimum period that must be served, based on the specific circumstances of a case.”