Tree surgeon murdered wife then left young sons to find her body

A tree surgeon who stabbed his wife to death and left their two young sons to discover her body has been jailed for life.

Andrew Tavener attacked Claire, 27, with a knife in a sustained assault at their home in Nailsea, Somerset, on the evening of January 7.

The 45-year-old then fled the house and attempted to take his own life by lying in front of a train at a nearby railway station.

A man who murdered his wife and left their two young sons to find her body has been jailed for life.Andrew Tavener...

Posted by Avon and Somerset Constabulary on Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Bristol Crown Court heard the couple's sons, aged six and three, discovered Mrs Tavener lying dead on the floor of the lounge in the morning and called 999.

During the call, made at 6.55am on January 8, the eldest told an operator he believed "mummy was dead as she was covered in blood" and said he and his younger brother had been with her for about an hour.

Tavener was arrested at Nailsea and Backwell Station and spent four weeks in hospital for an injury to his hand, caused when he was hit by a train.

Judge Peter Blair QC, the Recorder of Bristol, jailed Tavener for life and ordered him to serve a minimum of 16 years and eight months in prison.

"You left that home knowing that your three and six-year-old boys would wake up to find their mother dead," the judge told Tavener, who pleaded guilty to murder.

"It is incomprehensible to anyone how you could do that.

"Your conduct was utterly self centred, unspeakably cruel and appallingly traumatic to your children."

Prosecuting, Kerry Maylin told the court how the couple's marriage had broken down and Mrs Tavener planned to move out of the family home.

Friends told how Mrs Tavener had been punched by her husband, who also grabbed her around the neck and lifted her off the ground on one occasion.

She would have to return home from nights out to prepare his dinner and Tavener complained she did not keep the house "clean and tidy enough", Ms Maylin said.

On January 6, Tavener, who was a heavy drinker, went to a pool tournament in Weymouth, Dorset, by coach and told friends that his marriage was over.

He told one: "I'm going to get a big knife and stab her.. I didn't just say that out loud, did I?" and said to another: "If she goes on at me like she did this morning I will f****** kill her".

After returning from the tournament, he phoned Mrs Tavener's father Steve Willmott and told him: "I don't want to upset you, you are a nice bloke, but you have to have your daughter back.

"She needs to move out and the sooner the better".

Mrs Tavener took the phone and told her father not to worry, adding that her husband was drunk.

The court heard Mr Willmott went to the family home at about 10pm after she failed to reply to messages, but did not knock on the door as it appeared quiet and calm inside.

At 6.55am the following morning, Mrs Tavener's eldest son phoned 999.

"In the call, he told the call operator his name, that he thought his mummy was dead because she was covered in blood," Ms Maylin said.

"He told the call operator that he was at home with his three-year-old brother, that they were with their mum who was lying on her back with her eyes open.

"He told the call operator that he and his brother had been with their mother for about an hour before dialling 999.

"He also told the call operator that there was a knife embedded in the sofa."

When paramedics attended the property, the six-year-old was able to open the locked front door and let them in. Both he and his brother were dressed in pyjamas.

He told the paramedics "daddy wouldn't have done this", the court heard.

A post-mortem examination found Mrs Tavener, who was pronounced dead when paramedics arrived, had suffered 10 stab wounds and self defence injuries.

Her cause of death was stab wounds to her neck and chest.

A commuter at Nailsea and Backwell station called 999 at about 7.10am after spotting Tavener lying on the tracks.

When he was arrested on suspicion of murder, Tavener, who smelt of alcohol, replied: "It's not suspicion of murder. I killed my wife. She is dead."

In a victim impact statement read to the court, Mrs Tavener's parents Steve and Sarah Willmott said she "absolutely idolised" her sons and devoted her time to care for them.

"We were told that the two boys had found Claire and that they had called the ambulance," they said.

"We are so proud of them for doing this and they informed us that mummy had taught them to do this.

"The boys have been so brave and strong over the last few months and we are so proud of them."

They said "only time will tell" the full impact of the murder on the two boys.

Representing Tavener, James Bennett said his client had lost all the fingers on his right hand after being hit by the train and had undergone two operations, including skin grafts.

"He is at a loss to explain his actions," Mr Bennett said.

"He recognises now that he was drinking too much.

"He recognises that he was under stress.

"The decision to go out that weekend drinking and playing pool was unwise.

"His recollection is that he was upset at the breakdown of the relationship.

"He had convinced himself that Claire was seeing someone else."

Father-of-three Tavener had one previous conviction, for drink driving.

Speaking after the case, Detective Inspector Mike Buck of Avon and Somerset Police said: "Claire's brutal murder has devastated her family and I know it will take them a long, long time to adjust to life without her.

"Her boys have to grow up not just without their mother, but with the knowledge that their father is responsible for her death.

"This was a senseless crime and one which we have been given no explanation for as Tavener refused to answer any questions in interview.

"Claire's boys, along with the rest of her family, have shown tremendous resilience and courage in dealing with this tragedy and my heart goes out to them as they continue to rebuild their lives."

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