London man killed his lover because she wanted to leave him for his son

A jealous father-of-twelve who burned his 24-year-old lover to death when she tried to leave him for his 18-year-old son has been jailed for life.

Ashley Williams, 49, hit Julie Beattie, 24, over the head with a hammer before he doused her in a mixture of petrol and diesel fuel.

She managed to stagger out of her home in flames like a ‘zombie’ and gasp: ‘Ashley did this to me’, before collapsing.

She later died of horrific injuries, a trial at the Old Bailey heard.

Two children aged four and five witnessed the murder and became the youngest witnesses to give evidence at a murder trial.

Her sister Lucie Beattie described arriving at their south London home to see Williams put on his coat and walk out as Ms Beattie burned, screaming, behind him.

He carried out the attack in revenge because the mother of his four children was packing her bags to live with his son Ashley jnr from a previous marriage.

He claimed that he had thought he was involved in a ‘water fight’ and that she had been throwing the fuel at him – but he had no idea how she actually became ignited.

But he was convicted of murder at the Old Bailey by a jury of six men and six women.

He showed no emotion as the verdict was announced while the victim’s family wept and clutched each other’s hands.

He was jailed for life and told he must serve minimum of 25 years before being considered for release.

In a statement read to the court Julie’s mother Linda Beattie said she has been ‘completely destroyed’ by his ‘incomprehensible wickedness’.

Ms Beattie described her daughter as ‘beautiful, bubbly, caring and engaging’ and she said her death has devastated the family.

She said the victim was a ‘large ball of positive energy, cheeky and mischievous at times and selfless’.

‘It’s like a horrible nightmare coping with this utterly incomprehensible wickedness,’ she added.

Williams was married to Monica Williams and the couple had eight children together before they divorced in 1999.

He then started a relationship with Linda Beattie, the victim’s mother, before he moved on to Julie.

Ms Beattie was aged only 16 when she gave birth to their first child in 2009.

The court heard that Williams became increasingly possessive and would not let his partner have a tattoo or wear revealing clothes.

Ashley Jnr, 18, moved into the flat in Walworth, in September 2012 and began a sexual relationship with his father’s girlfriend four or five months later, it was said.

When Williams found out, he banned his son from having anything to do with Ms Beattie and tried to exile him from London.

He threatened to ‘break every bone in his body’ if he refused to leave town.

On July 18 Ms Beattie and Ashley Jnr travelled to Birmingham together.

The couple had come back to London on the day of her murder, the same day Williams had sent a number of texts, begging Ms Beattie for forgiveness.

In one message he said: ‘I tried over and over with you Julie.

‘I wish you nothing but the best… I’ll always love you, I just showed it too late, please forgive me Julie.’

He also sent his children bizarre messages blaming them for the break up of the relationship.

In one he stated: ‘When my life is done..mark these words of your father, my curse will begin.’

When Williams came home from work at 11am he locked her inside the house.

Her sister Lucie Beattie collapsed in court as she relived the moment she saw her sister emerge from the house in flames.

She said when she went to the house Ms Beattie screamed: ‘He’s going to kill us.’

When she returned minutes later she saw smoke billowing out of a window and ran in screaming: ‘Where’s Julie.’

She sobbed as she told the court: ‘I pushed open the kitchen door and a lot of smoke came out.

‘I saw Julie. She was in flames,’ she wept.

The victim walked out of the house and rolled onto the floor before sitting down with her hands and legs out in front of her.

Witnesses said that her clothing and some of her skin was actually on fire.

Neighbours poured water on the victim and wrapped her in wet blankets while they waited for emergency services.

Williams was arrested in a park close to the home later the same day, with self inflicted injuries.

In court he claimed he was not trying to kill himself because of what had happened to the victim – but because he was upset that the fire had damaged the kitchen.

Williams, of Walworth, who had denied the charge, was convicted of murder.

Sentencing Williams, Judge Charles Ward QC said: ‘I have no doubt of your controlling behaviour in the course of that rather unequal relationship.

‘You killed her in the most horrific way imaginable, pouring what you knew to be a flammable liquid mixture of diesel and petrol over her front and back and then you set fire to it, set fire to her, in the house in the kitchen.

‘You did so where a number of children could see, but also other adults including adults related to her – her sister.’

The court heard he did nothing to try and save Miss Beattie.

Judge Ward continued: ‘This was a terrible terrible crime.

‘I take into account your age and the fact you have not been convicted of any serious offence before.

‘The sentence is life imprisonment. You will never be released until it’s decided by the parole board that it’s safe to release you.

‘It’s been concerning to watch you in this trial and your demeanor, largely impassive sometimes smiling and chuckling inappropriately.

‘You are a very dangerous man. You will serve 25 years minimum.’

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