Horror film fan and boyfriend guilty of murdering woman at ‘flat of horrors’

A serial-killer obsessive and his partner have been found guilty of killing a woman in their “flat of horrors” after a night out.

Horror film fan Nathan Maynard-Ellis, 30, and his boyfriend 25-year-old David Leesley killed Julia Rawson before cutting her body into 11 pieces and dumping her remains at two sites near a canal.

A court heard Maynard-Ellis met Ms Rawson, 42, by chance in a pub in Dudley, West Midlands, and took her in a taxi to his flat in May last year.

Ms Rawson’s body parts, including her severed head, hands and feet, were found on 12 and 29 June 2019 at two different locations.

Opening the prosecution’s case at the start of the trial at Coventry Crown Court, Karim Khalil QC urged jurors to act dispassionately given the “especially gruesome” allegations.

“The prosecution case can be stated quite shortly – for many years Maynard-Ellis has harboured dark thoughts that have focused mainly on the sexual assault of women and their violent killing,” he told the court.

“He has shown a particular interest in certain themes involving serial killers and the dismemberment of bodies.

“His boyfriend, David Leesley, knew of these interests, since their flat was full of printed materials, DVDs and videos about serial killers and the violent sexual abuse of women.”

Jurors were told the couple’s home in Mission Drive, Tipton, West Midlands, had a workbench equipped with tools including an axe, and also contained stuffed creatures, snakes and “gory” home-made horror masks.

Maynard-Ellis was not in court on Monday to hear the jury’s verdicts after being taken ill and losing his sense of taste in prison last week, while Leesley was present in the dock.

Mr Khalil said of Maynard-Ellis: “We accept that his part in these horrific acts were the actions of a man with a disturbed mind, but they were not, we say, carried out in a state of heightened psychiatric panic.

“He knew what he wanted to do and he intended to do exactly what he did – it was the culmination of years of pent-up fantasy and desire.”

Maynard-Ellis told the jury he had not harboured any desire to “re-enact” horror movies, having lashed out with a rolling pin after Ms Rawson made “moves” towards him.

Mr Khalil told the court: “Julia could not have known that she was about to enter a ‘flat of horrors’ – but she must have realised this very soon after she went in.

“By way of description, there were numerous stuffed creatures on the walls, snakes and reptiles in tanks, and many gory face masks of characters from horror films that Nathan Maynard-Ellis used to make.”

Among items in the lounge was a model of somebody holding a knife, while swords and spiders were mounted on the wall, Mr Khalil said.

Both defendants behaved normally in the days after Ms Rawson was killed, jurors were told, with Maynard-Ellis appearing “very happy” as he celebrated his birthday on 21 May.

Maynard-Ellis was convicted of murder, as well as four counts of rape and one of attempted rape relating to historical allegations made by a woman following his arrest.

He will be sentenced alongside Leesley, who was unanimously convicted of murder, at a later date.

Both defendants had admitted perverting the course of justice and concealing a body after the dismemberment of Ms Rawson’s remains.

Adjourning the case, Mr Justice Soole excused the jurors from jury service for the next seven years.

Speaking after the verdicts, Detective Inspector Jim Colclough said the victim’s family had been left “absolutely devastated”.

“I hope the result from court provides some form of closure at the very least for the family so that they can move on and carry their grief forward,” he said.

“It’s been a terrible time and my heart really does go out to them.”

James Francis, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said Maynard-Ellis and Leesley “lied many times throughout the investigation to avoid detection”.

He added: “I want to pay tribute to the surviving victim in this case for the strength and determination that she has shown to ensure justice was served for her and Julia Rawson. Thanks to her bravery, others will now be protected from these dangerous men.”

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