Sarah Henshaw murder trial: Carpet fitter 'panicked' and dumped ex-partner’s body near lay-by

Sarah Henshaw had an argument on the night of June 20, the court heard Credit: PA Media

A man accused of killing his former partner has told a jury that he "was not thinking right" when he decided to dump her body near a lay-by after she died by falling down the stairs.

Darren Hall said he “just panicked” after Ms Henshaw fell during an argument on the evening of June 20 this year, transporting her body more than 20 miles from her home in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, to a lay-by on the A617 near Chesterfield, and leaving her in woodland.

The 36-year-old trembled as he gave evidence, telling jurors that he did not murder Ms Henshaw but did move her body and lied to friends and family after her death to suggest she had gone missing.

Under questioning from his barrister, Andrew Vout KC, Hall told Derby Crown Court that he and Ms Henshaw, 31, had an argument on the night of June 20 after she accused him of infidelity, and he got up to go downstairs at her home in Norman Street.

Sobbing in the dock, Hall said: “As I got to the top of the stairs, she goes to push me downstairs.

“I don’t think she was doing it to push me down the stairs, she has got her hand on my back saying, ‘Go on, get out’.

“I put my right hand out to brace myself and she pushed a bit harder, I swung my left arm back out at her and as I turned around she was already falling down the stairs.

“I just saw her fall head first. It was so quick, it was like I blinked and then she was at the bottom, it was so quick.

“She was not moving, she was just in a pile at the bottom of the stairs.”

Darren Hall is on trial at Derby Crown Court Credit: Jacob King/PA

Hall said he was not trying to push or hurt Ms Henshaw, with her fall happening in a “nanosecond”.

Hall knew Ms Henshaw was dead as she was not breathing, but he said he did not call for help as he believed he would be accused of murder.

Phone data shows he drove to the lay-by on the westbound A617, which he said he chose at random due to being in “such a panic”, and stopped for nine minutes, dumping her body without hiding it as he was “not thinking right”.

When asked by Mr Vout why he moved Ms Henshaw’s body, which was not discovered until June 26, Hall said: “There is no real, reasonable reason.”

Hall, a carpet fitter, admitted that having used Ms Henshaw’s phone to text her friend to make it “seem like she was still OK”, he threw it out of the window of his work van as he drove home after disposing of her body.

He later sent texts to Ms Henshaw’s discarded phone on June 21, which he said was to “try and make out as if she had just left”.

Hall and Ms Henshaw met in 2011, with the pair separating in 2017, rekindling their relationship in 2022 and it becoming strained again this year.

Hall said he was “so sorry to everyone” and felt “horrible” for lying to friends, family and the police to say that she had voluntarily left on the night of June 20, disposing of her clothing in a skip and a recycling centre to reinforce the lie.

The Crown alleges that Hall “callously dumped” Ms Henshaw’s body in the lay-by after murdering her during the argument, having let himself into her property on the afternoon of June 20 and staying despite requests for him to leave.

Under cross-examination from prosecutor Michelle Heeley KC, Hall denied ever being violent to Ms Henshaw and that he did not leave the property as he was living there at the time, rather than his house in Rodney Way.

While the Crown has admitted it does not know how Ms Henshaw died, Ms Heeley accused Hall of strangling his former partner during a struggle, something he denied.

The trial, before Mr Justice Goss, continues.

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