Girl, 16, killed and burned in 'sexual murder' by aunt's husband, court told

A man bludgeoned his wife’s 16-year-old niece in a ‘cruel and brutal’ murder then tried to ‘destroy’ her body by setting it on fire, a court has heard.

Louise Smith was ‘unrecognisable’ by the time she was found in woodland at Havant Thicket, Hampshire, almost two weeks after she disappeared on VE Day. Such was the extent of her injuries it was impossible to determine which caused her death.

Shane Mays, 31, is on trial at Winchester Crown Court charged with the ‘sexually motivated’ killing.

Prosecutor James Newton-Price QC told jurors the ‘vulnerable’ teenager ‘had been subjected to extreme violence’, with her face ‘shattered’, her jaw ‘completely detached from her skull’ and her body ‘penetrated in a terrible way’ with a long stick.

The court heard the teenager moved into the one-bedroom flat Mays shared with his wife, Chazlynn Jayne Mays, known as CJ Mays, in April after ‘quarrelling’ with her mum because she wanted to spend more time with her boyfriend.

Jurors were told Ms Mays reported her missing on May 8.

The defendant told police he had walked with Louise to a skatepark in Emsworth, but later changed his story and admitted causing her death, the court heard.

Mr Newton-Price said: ‘The prosecution submits this was a cruel and brutal murder.’

He went on: ‘Her body was found in Havant Thicket at 11.45am on May 21 following an extensive search by Hampshire Police.

‘Louise had been missing for 13 days by then. A determined attempt had been made to destroy her body. It was so badly burned and damaged by fire as to be unrecognisable.

‘Her body had been subjected to extreme violence, this included repeated and heavy blows to her head.

‘The bones and the structure of her face had been shattered, her jaw bone was completely detached from the skull.

‘Her body had also been penetrated in a terrible way that I will have to describe. There are grounds to believe that part of the motivation for her murder was sexual.’

He said that Mays threw away Louise’s mobile phone after killing her, before walking to his mother’s home and telling her he had accompanied the teenager to the skatepark.

Mr Newton-Price said Louise ‘was a vulnerable child, she took anti-depressants and occasionally self-harmed and had a social worker’.

He added: ‘She lacked confidence and she suffered from anxiety issues that do affect some teenagers.’

The prosecutor told jurors Louise first moved in with another aunt before moving to the Mays’ household in late April, which started happily.

He said Louise sent a message to Ms Mays saying: ‘I want to start calling you guys mum and dad but I do not want to make Shane uncomfortable.’

But the court heard the arrangement deteriorated when Ms Mays imposed a curfew after she became unhappy with Louise smoking cannabis, bringing her boyfriend home and arriving late.

Louise later messaged a friend saying: ‘I can’t live here anymore.’ She added: ‘Long story, they are just vile.’

Mr Newton-Price said on the day before she disappeared, Louise argued with her aunt and the defendant but returned to their home after appearing to have made up with them.

He said Louise got drunk that evening but by the early hours she had contacted an online mental health helpline.

She wrote: ‘I suffer from anxiety and depression, it sucks but I make it through every day somehow but I can’t cope as much.’

Later, she wrote: ‘I can’t wait for this lockdown to be over so I can get some help with my mental health.’

Mr Newton-Price said Louise’s boyfriend told police she had accused the defendant of flirting with her and the jury was shown a short Snapchat video of Mays tickling her.

The prosecutor said Mays lied when he was interviewed by police, adding: ‘He knew he had killed her, he knew where the body was but he plainly didn’t want to admit that or tell the police where the body was, he told a series of lies which were intended to deflect blame.’

Mr Newton-Price said that Louise’s badly burned body was found ‘damaged and defiled’ in the woodland by two police officers.

She was found with her legs spread apart with a long stick shoved 35cm inside her body, he said.

Mr Newton-Price said: ‘If done when she was alive, and one hopes that was not the case, this would have torn the vagina, part of the bowel, the liver and the diaphragm causing severe bleeding and overwhelming pain.’

He added that her central facial skeleton was ‘shattered’ caused by ‘repeated blows from a heavy object’, possibly a large branch.

Mr Newton-Price said that pathologist Dr Basil Purdue was unable to determine which of her injuries caused her death because of the damage caused by the fire and a post mortem concluded that the cause of death was unascertained.

The prosecutor added: ‘It’s absolutely clear that Louise Smith suffered a violent and unlawful death and her body had been burned and violated.’

Mr Newton-Price said it was possible that Mays had returned to the scene to set fire to the body.

Mays denies murder and the trial continues.

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