Mother with baby girl in same room strangled to death, court told

A loving mother was strangled to death with her baby in the same room by her partner, who then “fabricated” a story in an attempt to fool police, a court has heard.

Care worker Kayleigh Hanks, 29, was “over the moon” to find out she was pregnant with daughter Ava after doctors told her she could not have children.

But when Ava was just seven months old, Miss Hanks was killed in her flat in Bexhill, East Sussex, by partner Ian Paton, prosecutors say.

While she lay unmoving, Paton set about cutting himself and arranging the scene to make it look like Miss Hanks had attacked him with a knife, his trial heard.

Paton – Ava’s father – denies murdering Miss Hanks on the night of July 20-21 2019 and is on trial at Hove Crown Court.

The 36-year-old sales representative, of Snowdrop Rise in St Leonards, appeared in the dock wearing a white shirt.

Prosecutor Alexandra Healy QC told the jury: “During the course of their relationship Kayleigh told a number of people, a number of her friends, that the defendant had been violent towards her.

“She also said that she had been violent towards him.”

The jury heard that Paton once grabbed her head and slammed it into a car dashboard, and on another occasion dragged her out of a car by her hair.

Emma Hanks, her sister, was unsettled when she witnessed Paton demanding that Miss Hanks get on her knees and declare her love for him.

On July 20, after visiting her sister, Kayleigh Hanks and the defendant left for home with their daughter at about 6.30pm.

At 12.33am on July 21, Paton called 999 and asked to speak to police, the court heard.

He told the call handler: “She went for me, she had a knife. I restrained her and she is on the floor now.

“I think I restrained her too hard and she’d stopped breathing.”

The court heard that when police arrived at the flat they found Paton standing in the doorway waiting for them.

Prosecutor Ms Healy said: “The defendant claims he was acting in self-defence when he strangled Kayleigh Hanks, and he was much bigger than her.

“He has fabricated this defence. He cut himself in order to make it look as though he had been injured by Kayleigh brandishing the knife at him.

“He did not call an ambulance when he realised Kayleigh had stopped moving.

“Instead he set about laying the groundworks for this self-defence, cutting himself with the knife and placing the knife near Kayleigh’s body.”

The court heard that following surgery after an earlier ectopic pregnancy Miss Hanks was told that she could not have children.

However she later became pregnant with Ava and was “over the moon”, the court heard.

Speaking from behind a screen, her sister Emma Hanks said: “She was very, very overjoyed but also anxious at the same time.”

The trial continues.

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