A man subjected his partner to a brutal assault at the home they shared then packed his bags and left the property for a hotel, a court has heard.
After beating the woman into a state of unconsciousness Jonathan Campbell stripped Helen Bannister and put her in the bath to wash the blood away rather than immediately calling for help.
Campbell then left the dying woman on the settee in the house, wrote a note apologising for what he had done, packed his bags, and walked to the corner shop to buy booze.
The defendant did eventually call 999, saying his partner was “outers” on the sofa and requesting an ambulance – Miss Bannister was subsequently air lifted to hospital but the mum-of-two could not be saved.
Sending the 37-year-old to prison, a judge at Swansea Crown Court told him he had carried out a “drunken, ferocious, sustained, and merciless assault” on his partner of five years.
Christopher Clee QC, prosecuting, said at around 4.30pm the defendant rang 999 and told the operator he had hit his partner and she was, in his words, “outers” on the sofa. Emergency services rushed to the address on Waun Wen Road and found 48-year-old Miss Bannister unresponsive on the settee. The barrister said it was clear to paramedics she had suffered “significant injuries”, and she was taken by air ambulance to hospital.
Campbell, however, was nowhere to be seen.
The court heard that after attacking his partner he had in fact gone to the local Londis shop and bought himself two bottles of wine before going into town to meet a friend by a name of Paula Saunders, and then booking a room for them at a Premier Inn hotel. The pair spent the evening walking around the city centre and marina area drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis before police found and arrested the defendant just before 11.30pm. When arrested by officers Campbell’s response was: “I done what I done, so I will deal with it.”
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Mr Clee said that in his subsequent police interview the defendant admitting assaulting Miss Bannister, saying he “snapped” after finding pictures on her phone suggesting she had been cheating on him. He told the officers: “I didn’t mean to take it that far. I love her. Everything just got out of hand.” The court heard Campbell said he butted his partner twice, and then tried to bring her around by removing her clothes and putting her in the bath – when that didn’t work he said he put her on the sofa, left a note apologising to her, and packed his bags.
While he was being interviewed Miss Bannister was fighting for her life in the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. She had suffered “devastating brain injuries” in the assault, and never regained consciousness. Miss Bannister died in hospital six days later. A post mortem found she suffered swelling on the brain, a fractured bone in her throat, fractured ribs, a collapsed lung, and facial injuries.
Mr Clee said a scenes of crime expert who examined the Mayhill house found blood splatters on the cooker and sink in the kitchen which suggested the victim had been at a low level – possibly laying on the floor – when she had been struck multiple times into areas of her body already wet with blood, findings which were not consistent with Campbell’s account of delivering two butts.
In victim impact statements from the deceased’s daughters which were read to the court by barrister Carina Hughes, Miss Bannister was described as a strong, loving woman who had been full of life. The daughters described the pain of losing their mother, and how their lives had fallen apart following the death. The court heard how the Miss Bannister had been almost unrecognisable as she lay in her hospital bed due to the severity of the facial injuries she suffered at the hands of the man who was supposed to love her, and one of the daughters added: “If this could happen to my mother, it could happen to any one.”
Jonathan James Frazer Campbell, of Waun Wen Road, Mayhill, Swansea, had previously pleaded guilty to murder when he appeared in the dock for sentencing. The court heard he has previous convictions for assaulting Miss Bannister and a previous partner, attacks which had seen him choking his victims. At the time he murdered Miss Bannister he was on licence for assaulting an emergency worker, one of a number of assaults on police officers he has on his record.
Allison Summers QC, for Campbell, said it was not disputed that there must have been “multiple forceful impacts” inflicted during the assault on Miss Bannister. She said it had not been the defendant’s intention to kill, and that putting her in the bath and then on the sofa – though it may have been “misconceived, very strange and unattractive behaviour” – was more indicative of a drunken and panicked man than of any concerted attempted to hide or destroy evidence.
The barrister said Campbell’s mother was a university lecturer and his brothers Welsh champion sportsmen, while his dyslexia had been mistaken for stupidity at school. She said her client began drinking at the age of 15, and found himself homeless at the age of 16. The barrister said the defendant’s solider father and walked out on the family when he had been aged six and has not been seen since and, while not an excuse, it may be that the defendant had been left with a fear of abandonment.
Judge Paul Thomas QC told Campbell he had carried out a “drunken, ferocious, sustained, and merciless assault” on his partner of five years.
He said in his view the defendant had put Miss Bannister in the bath to try to wash away the blood to “given yourself more options”, and then after writing the note had left his victim “unconscious, alone, without help, and dying” on the sofa. The judge noted that before calling for help for the stricken woman – something he described as “basic humanity” – Campbell had had gone to buy alcohol before arranging to meet another woman, behaviour which demonstrated his “callousness and self-interest”.
Judge Thomas said the sentence for murder was one of life, and the job for the court was to determine how long the defendant must serve behind bars before he can be considered for release. Giving the defendant a 10 per cent discount for his guilty plea the judge sentenced him to life with a minimum term of 18 years.
Judge Thomas told Campbell he would be well into his 50s before he could apply for parole but even then he will only be released if the Parole Board consider it is safe to do so.
Miss Bannister’s family issued a statement following the hearing. It read: “Our mother was murdered by her partner Johnathan Campbell on December 1 2020. We will remember this day for the rest of our lives as it is the day that shattered our worlds.
“We have lost our Mum and she will now not be a part of our, and our families, lives as we all grow up together and she will miss so many milestones. Our Mum was young at heart, full of life and loved music. She was very much loved and will be missed by all her family and friends, especially by us, her grandchildren, mother, sister and brother.
“Our lives have fallen apart. We are lost without her. Campbell has stolen our future with our mother. Her grandchildren will not have the opportunity to spend time with her as they grow older. They have lost her whilst they are at such young ages and it is so upsetting to know that they may not remember her.
“Our whole lives have changed and been destroyed. It feels like a horrible nightmare and doesn’t feel real. What has happened will affect us for the rest of our lives. The sentence given to Campbell will never be enough and will not bring our mother back.”
South Wales Police detective inspector David Butt from the force’s major crime investigations team welcomed the sentence handed down to the defendant. He said Campbell had subjected Miss Bannister to “years of terror” during their relationship, something nobody should have to suffer.
He added: “I hope the sentence handed down to him today will provide a degree of comfort to Helen’s family, though I recognise that no amount of time in prison could ever properly compensate them for such a dreadful loss. I would like to thank Helen’s family and friends, especially her daughters Stacey and Sarah for their support, as well as the community. The help given to the investigation team has ensured this successful prosecution and conviction.”
Senior Crown prosecutor with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in Wales, Abul Hussain, said everyone had the right to feel safe in their own home and there was no excuse for domestic violence. He said Miss Bannister’s life was “cruelly snatched away from her” by Campbell, and her family and friends were in the CPS’s thoughts.