A “sadistic” husband has been jailed for a minimum of 31 years after murdering his estranged wife and her lover in a New Year’s Day “bloodbath”.
Former head teacher Rhys Hancock killed Helen Hancock and Martin Griffiths at the former marital home in Duffield, Derbyshire, before calling police to say: “I’ve just murdered my wife in her bed.”
Derby Crown Court heard the 40-year-old defendant was found outside the property in a blood-stained shirt just after the murders, telling a police officer: “I’m hardly going to deny it; look at me.”
Hancock, a father of three, inflicted 66 injuries on his 39-year-old wife using two kitchen knives he had taken from his mother’s house in Etwall.
Mr Griffiths suffered 37 injuries in the “brutal” attack – with a senior ambulance staff member describing it as “the most violent incident he had ever seen in over 17 years’ experience”.
The court heard how before travelling 10 miles to the former marital home, Hancock told his mother Denise Hancock of his plans – saying he “would get 25 or 30 years in prison and that he would be released when he was in his 60s”.
Summarising Hancock’s actions, prosecutor Michael Auty QC told the sentencing hearing: “There is no escaping these murders were premeditated, they were savage, the attack was merciless, there were elements of sadism and the intention was always … and only to kill.
“Perhaps, above all else, they were committed in the coldest of blood.”
Mr Auty told the court the defendant had left his mother’s house with the knives, before returning moments later to “share a cup of tea with his mother one last time, as if it was his way of bidding her farewell”.
Mrs Hancock, a PE teacher, and father-of-two Mr Griffiths, were pronounced dead at the detached property in New Zealand Lane shortly before 5am on January 1.
The defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of murder at a previous hearing.
Sentencing Hancock on Thursday, Judge Nirmal Shant QC said she concluded she “could not be sure” the injuries suffered by the defendant’s estranged wife were as a result of “sadistic or sexual conduct”.
Jailing Hancock for life with a minimum term of 31 years, Judge Shant told him: “This was substantially pre-meditated and pre-planned.
“You had settled on your intent to kill them both before you left your mother’s house.
“What you did that night has deprived two families of the people they love and no sentence I impose will seem adequate to them and nothing I do can fill the undoubted void that the deaths of Helen Hancock and Martin Griffiths have left in their lives.
“Your actions that night left your three children without a mother and you left Martin’s family without a son and his children without a father.”
Judge Shant described the assault on Helen Hancock as “brutal and extensive” but added: “I have not concluded that this was sadistic or sexual conduct.”
After her son left the house for the final time, Denise Hancock called 999 on her mobile at 4.11am to say: “Please you need to go. She has been with another man. My son found out on Friday night. He now has two knives and is on his way there.”
Her son had taken both landline telephones with him to Duffield and tried to locate her mobile phone in an attempt to prevent her from alerting the police – having told her: “I feel like I want to kill them.”
Mr Auty said the operator “tried to persuade her to telephone Helen and warn her, but she had no idea what she would say”.
At 4.26am, the defendant called 999 himself, saying: “I have just stabbed them… there is blood everywhere. This has just happened. My children are safe at my mother’s house.”
A police officer arrived at 4.28am and saw Hancock, who was wearing a shirt stained with blood.
He was arrested moments later after telling police he had entered the property through the unlocked back door before going upstairs to the bedroom.
The court heard the defendant previously told his mother: “I’ve got the key. I can creep in and catch them in bed together.”
Hancock was unable to enter through the front door as a key was on the other side of the lock.
After Hancock’s arrest, police made their way into the house and discovered both victims lying on the floor – a scene described by ambulance staff as a “bloodbath”.
In his opening, Mr Auty said Hancock was on police bail at the time of the murders after he allegedly threw something at his wife in October 2019, causing a laceration.
Speaking on behalf of the defendant, Clive Stockwell QC, defending, said: “The impact of his criminality on New Year’s Day has damaged the lives of many individuals.
“He is very alive to the fact that by his actions he has deprived his own children of the presence of their mother for the rest of their lives in the knowledge … that it was their father who inflicted that bereavement on them.
“Some of the remarks he made at the scene and in interview were disgraceful.
“However distressing this crime was, it does not merit the imposition of a whole life sentence.”