Hollie Kerrell: Husband who murdered wife then buried her body jailed for at least 25 years
Christopher Kerrell was today given a life sentence for the brutal murder of his wife Hollie.
A husband who murdered his estranged wife, buried her body then created a search group to look for her has been jailed for life.
Christopher Kerrell, 35, attacked mother-of-three Hollie Kerrell with a hammer and strangled her in the kitchen of her home in Knucklas, near Knighton, Powys, on April 22.
Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court heard Kerrell ensured the 28-year-old was dead, then drank her cup of tea as he cleaned the room and wrapped her body in clothing and bags.
He sent messages to Ms Kerrell's mother and friends saying she had "walked out" and later created a Facebook group about her "disappearance" with her family and friends.
Hours after the murder, Kerrell loaded his wife's body into the boot of his Vauxhall Astra and drove it to his mother's home six miles away, where he used a tractor to bury it in farmland.
On his way back to her home, the quarry machine operator approached a police community support officer and asked if he could report his wife as a missing person as she had walked out on him earlier that day.
The following day, Kerrell claimed he was burying his dog when a walker questioned why he was climbing over a fence in remote farmland.
'In the prime of her life'
Mr Justice Morris sentenced Kerrell for life and ordered him to serve a minimum of 25 years in prison.
"Hollie Kerrell was a healthy young woman in the prime of her life, a much-loved daughter and a mother of three young children," the judge said.
"She was subjected to a brutal attack which came without warning."
He said there were a series of aggravating factors in the case, including Kerrell's "concerted and calculating efforts to persuade Hollie's family and friends that she was still alive".
Prosecuting, Peter Lewis QC said Kerrell killed his wife in a "brutal" attack that he later told police took at least 10 minutes.
"Within minutes of the death, he began contacting friends and family saying he was concerned for Hollie and pretended he was trying to find her," Mr Lewis said.
"He said to those who may be looking for her that she had left him, taking her clothes with her. He then carried on his own life as normal."
Kerrell met his wife in 2010 and they married three years later, living in a three-bedroom terraced home until their separation weeks before her death.
Friends described their relationship as "volatile" and said Kerrell was jealous, violent and possessive towards his wife.
He moved into his mother's home but visited his wife and children on an almost daily basis.
On April 22, Ms Kerrell messaged her sister at 9.54am: "He is here now so might not be able to message as yesterday he twisted my arms back and nearly ran me over to get my phone."
Seconds later, she wrote: "He's just been in shed and got a hammer?"
Her sister replied: "Ring the police. NOW!"
Minutes later, Kerrell used the hammer to strike his wife to her head and then strangled her.
"The defendant then cleaned up Hollie's blood from the kitchen floor, pausing to finish a cup of tea that Hollie had earlier made for herself," Mr Lewis said.
Attempted cover up
Kerrell sent messages to friends and phoned his wife's mother, Claire Heeney, telling them he was concerned as she had left their home.
After burying her body, he stopped at a petrol station and approached a police community support officer.
The defendant told the officer his wife had walked out that morning and asked if he could report her as a missing person.
That evening, Kerrell sent messages to his boss saying he would have to become a full-time parent as his wife had "run off".
On April 23, he created a Facebook group with his wife's family and friends.
Kerrell was arrested the following day and denied any involvement in his spouse's disappearance.
On April 25, dog walker Joanna Griffiths told police she had seen Kerrell climbing over a fence in a remote area of farmland around the time his wife went missing.
"She asked the defendant what he was doing, Mr Lewis said.
"He said his dog had died and he was burying it."
Police search teams found Ms Kerrell's body buried close to where her husband had been seen by Mrs Griffiths.
A post-mortem examination found she died from blunt force head injuries and pressure to the neck. The tip of one of her fingers had been amputated.
Kerrell admitted killing his wife in a statement to police on April 27, telling them he had driven his tractor "backwards and forwards" over her grave to "even it out".
Ms Kerrell's mother read a victim personal statement to the court and addressed to Kerrell in the dock.
"You took my soulmate from me and carved out my heart," Mrs Heeney said.
"You have changed the axis on which my world turned. I will never accept what you have done."
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