The friends and family of Jade Riley Ward applauded when her killer’s sentence was read out at Nottingham Crown Court on Friday morning.
Cornelius Brown sat in the dock looking at the floor, and only raised his head when he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Judge Jonathan Teare told Brown: “You were 22 at the time you murdered your girlfriend Jade Riley Ward. You are a young man with a history of violence and you demonstrated your violent character in the days before you killed her. You were intensely jealous and intensely possessive of her and this seems to be the reason you killed her.”
The court heard that Brown - who had been in an eight-month relationship with Jade - had known her for many years and at one time she had been his baby-sitter.
She was described as a bubbly and vivacious young woman “who had everything going for her.” At the time of the attack, she had been “utterly defenceless.”
Judge Teare said: “Your relationship lasted eight months and you were not living with her. The time had come when she wanted space. You were jealous that she wanted her independence and were smothering her with your attentions. She only wanted the relationship to come to an end without hurting you.”
The court heard how Brown’s “jealousy and possessiveness” had been demonstrated a few days before the events of September 22. when he wrongly suspected she had been seeing someone else. He punched a hole in a wardrobe at a mututal friend’s house and then rammed a friend’s head into a sink and broke his nose when the friend tried to calm him down.
On the day of September 22 Jade had been due to go shopping with her mother - but the trip was cancelled. Brown accompanied mutual friend Wayne Roberts to Jade’s house where he had been invited to discuss the sale of some puppies. Mr Roberts left the house at 3.10pm and seven minutes later received a call from Jade’s phone but no one was there when he answered. Detectives estimate that the attack began at 3.17pm and was over by 3.39pm.
Judge Teare told Brown: “Your attack on Jade Riley Ward was deliberate, vicious and prolonged. It would not be wrong to describe it as torture.”
Pathologists found 52 individual cuts to Jade’s face, torso and back, and a further 31 wounds on her hands and arms as she tried to defend herself. Brown used four knives to stab Jade and used so much “severe force” one blade had been bent. She died from blood-loss at around 4.23pm.
A witness heard Brown shout out during the attack: “That’s what you get for being a slag.”
Afterwards, an apparently remorseful Brown tried to inflict “superficial scratches” on his own throat with a knife. He used Jade’s phone to call his mother, who came round in a taxi to find her son lying on the pavement and shouting out: “Just kill me. I am not man enough to do it.”
No drugs or alcohol were found in Brown’s system, and medication he was taking for epilepsy was not deemed to have affected his behaviour.
When interviewed by police Brown said Jade had ended the relationship “out of the blue”. But close friends of Jade’s told detectives she had been seeking to reduce the number of hours she spent with him for some time before her murder. In a text to Brown, sent nine days before he killed her, Jade told him: “I don’t want you going off on one as this is how I feel.”
The court heard that Brown did not officially admit his guilt for another 14 months, due to difficulties in securing legal aid and an attempt by his legal advisors to explore the issue of diminished responsibility.
Sentencing Brown to serve a minimum of 20 years, Judge Teare said his decision had been aggravated by the vicious nature of the attack.
Jade’s mother, Maria Riley-Ward, said in a statement: “Jade was my only child and my best friend, and each day is a massive struggle to comprehend that she is no longer here , especially with the way she was taken from us. Nothing can bring my daughter back and what happened to her was done by someone evil and barbaric, but now in light of the sentence handed out, the knowledge that her murderer is not in a position where he can hurt someone again can go a little way to help to ease the pain.”
Over 400 family and friends attended Jade’s funeral. On what would have been her 31st birthday, in June 2012, a charity day raised £3,500 for the The Jason Spencer Trust, which supports families bereaved through violent crime. The event will now take place annually in Jade’s memory.