A 49-year-old man has been found guilty of murdering his girlfriend in a jealous rage because she had texted her other lover on the night he proposed to her.
Mark Brandford, of Kingston Crescent, Portsmouth, Hampshire, stabbed and used a crowbar to murder 32-year-old Kayleigh Dunning while she was naked in his bed on the night of December 16 2019.
The road sweeper was also convicted of a revenge porn charge of disclosing private sexual photos with the intent to cause distress to self-employed cleaner Ms Dunning between October 2018 and the time of her death.
Judge Timothy Mousley QC placed a restriction on reporting the verdict to enable Brandford’s legal team to inform him as he had been self-isolating at Winchester Prison after being in contact with a positive Covid-19 case.
He told the jury at Portsmouth Crown Court: “Because the defendant could not be contacted, I have made an order postponing the reporting of the verdict so his lawyer can speak to him first, before hearing from anyone else.”
Thanking the jurors, Judge Mousley added: “Thank you very much for the crucial part you played in this case.
“It’s obviously a huge responsibility for members of the public to decide these types of case, particularly when they are so serious.”
Simon Jones, prosecuting, told the court that Brandford had killed Ms Dunning in a jealous rage when he found out that, on the night he had proposed to her, she had been sending “affectionate” messages to another man, Dean Drooney, who she was still seeing.
She had also accidentally called Brandford by Mr Drooney’s name.
Mr Jones said Mr Drooney had sent Ms Dunning a message saying: “Night Noodle, wuv you”, to which she replied: “Night night, wuv you more Doodle, xxx”.
Mr Jones said: “She was the victim of a brutal and ferocious attack, namely blows to her head and neck which had crushed her skull and severed the major artery in her neck.”
Giving evidence, Brandford told the court: “I was jealous because she had told me she had left him.”
The court heard that Brandford pretended to be someone else to send intimate photos of Ms Dunning to friends and family, and he also set up a fake Facebook account in her name in the months before her death in a bid to “control her”.
Judge Mousley adjourned the case for sentencing on Friday February 26.
Detective Inspector Adam Edwards, of Hampshire police, said: “Kayleigh has been described by those that knew her as an outgoing, chatty and passionate young woman. Our thoughts remain with her friends, family and all those that knew her today.”
Ms Dunning’s family said in a statement: “She was so kind and thoughtful. As long as her mum, dad and brother were fine she was happy.
“The hardest thing is not being able to hear her voice and laughter, and not to cuddle her. Our life will never be the same. We are devastated.”