A “manipulative, abusive and controlling” man who stabbed a talented University of York student to death has been jailed for life.
Paul Crowther “ambushed” Bethany Fields and attacked her with a kitchen knife after she ended their relationship.
Crowther, 36, from Batley, West Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Miss Fields after being diagnosed with schizophrenia following her death.
Judge Tom Bayliss QC described Crowther as a “very dangerous man indeed” as he ordered him to be detained in hospital as part of his minimum sentence of 12 years.
Judge Bayliss told Leeds Crown Court that Miss Fields – who was studying for an Environmental Geography degree in York – described the defendant as “manipulative, abusive and controlling”.
He said: “She told police that the abuse, which was initially low key, began to intensify.”
‘I am scared and frightened’
The court heard that Crowther had suffered from mental health issues for a number of years and had been detained in hospital several times after threatening suicide, having thoughts about killing others and hearing voices.
Judge Bayliss said: “Bethany Fields did what she could to help him with his mental health issues but it all became too much for her to cope with and she ended their relationship.”
The court heard that, following the split, Crowther saw the psychiatric liaison team at Dewsbury District Hospital on three occasions, where he said he wanted to attack others and kill himself, but was not detained.
He sent a “constant” barrage of abuse and threats to Miss Fields and others, and the 21-year-old environmental geography student reported Crowther’s behaviour to the police.
Judge Bayliss said she told police: “’He has an obsession with killing someone and what it would feel like. I genuinely don’t know what to do. I am scared and frightened of what he will do and it’s made me fearful for others.
“’All I want,’ said Bethany Fields on 19 August, ‘is for him to leave me alone’.”
‘A targeted and sustained attack’
The court heard that Miss Fields worked for an organisation that provided music therapy for people with disabilities and learning difficulties and was hosting an event at a pub in her home town of Huddersfield on September 12.
Judge Bayliss said: “It was there that you, Paul Crowther, ambushed her, attacked her with a knife and then repeatedly stabbed her as she lay prone on the floor, ending her young life.”
He said Crowther had bought two knives, including a six-inch kitchen knife, eight days earlier and had made allegations about Miss Fields to police before driving to Huddersfield and attacking his former partner as she unloaded equipment.
The judge said the attack was captured on CCTV.
He said: “It shows a targeted and sustained attack. She was stabbed multiple times and after the attack the defendant ran back to his car and drove off.”
Miss Fields was pronounced dead despite attempts by her friends and passers-by to save her life.
Crowther tried to get away from police on the motorway before leaving his car on a bridge and climbing over railings while holding a knife to his throat.
He was later taken to hospital and then to the police station, where he held conversations with himself and referred to a voice in his head he called “Osiris”, which he claimed told him to carry out the attack.
He refused to answer questions during interview and claimed he had amnesia about killing Miss Fields.
Judge Bayliss said he accepted that Crowther’s decision to kill Miss Fields was driven by his condition, but he rejected the suggestion that he was in a “state of altered awareness” at the time, describing his actions as “entirely logical and rational”.
He said: “I am quite sure that you knew perfectly well what you were doing. You may have amnesia for what you have done. But you knew what you were doing.”
He added: “You are, Paul Crowther, I am sorry to say, a very dangerous man.”
Tributes to Bethany
Professor Mark E Hodson, head of the Department of Environment and Geography, paid this tribute at the time.
“It was with great sadness that we heard the news of Beth’s untimely death.
“She was an enthusiastic and committed student and popular with her classmates.
“She was a warm-hearted, kind student with a gift for communication.
“Beth particularly enjoyed the field work involved in her degree programme and following on from field courses in the Lake District and Iceland was all set to carry out her final year dissertation project on glaciers.
“Our thoughts are with her family and friends.”
Her family released a statement saying:
“The life of Bethany, who was a beautiful, talented, ambitious, intelligent, kind, giving and loving daughter, was tragically taken from her.
“A daughter, who any parent would have been proud of, much loved and respected by all: family, friends, work colleagues and fellow students.
“She will be sadly missed, but never forgotten, forever in our hearts and thoughts.
“Heaven has gained the brightest star of them all.”