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'Savage' estranged husband who murdered wife and her new lover in their bed jailed

Will Taylor
·News Reporter
·4-min read
Hancock, left, was jailed for murdering Martin Griffiths, centre, and estranged wife Helen, right. (PA/SWNS)
Hancock, left, was jailed for murdering Martin Griffiths, centre, and estranged wife Helen, right. (PA/SWNS)

A former head teacher has been jailed for life for murdering his estranged wife and her lover on New Year’s Day.

Rhys Hancock admitted killing Helen Hancock, 39, and Martin Griffiths, 48, in what a prosecutor described as a “savage” attack at their former home in Duffield, Derbyshire, before calling police to tell them what he did.

The 40-year-old had taken two knives from his mother’s house, and his wife endured 66 injuries in an incident a medic described as a “bloodbath... the most violent” he had ever seen.

Helen Hancock, a PE teacher from Duffield, and Griffiths, from Derby, were found with multiple stab wounds after officers were called at 4.11am.

Griffiths was found dead but paramedics tried to resuscitate Hancock before she succumbed to her injuries.

Rhys Hancock was jailed for a minimum of 31 years. (PA/Derbyshire Police)
Rhys Hancock was jailed for a minimum of 31 years. (PA/Derbyshire Police)

On Thursday, Derby Crown Court heard the Hancock’s injuries included 28 to her head and neck, which a prosecutor said were in line with the “use of severe force”.

Griffiths sustained 37 injuries, the court heard.

Paul Whitfield, of the East Midlands Ambulance Service, described the scene as a “bloodbath”, the court heard.

Michael Auty QC, prosecuting, said the clinical operations manager described the scene as “the most violent incident he had ever seen” in more than 17 years’ experience.

“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,” Auty said.

“Perhaps, above all else, they were committed in the coldest of blood.”

Auty said Hancock, from Etwall, Derbyshire, told police in a chilling 999 call: “I have just murdered my wife in her bed. I have just stabbed them.

“There is blood everywhere. His name is Martin Griffiths.

Floral tributes outside the property in Duffield, Derbyshire. (Anita Maric/SWNS)
Floral tributes outside the property in Duffield, Derbyshire. (Anita Maric/SWNS)

“This has just happened. My children are safe at my mother’s house.”

In the run up to the killing, Hancock told his mother Denise “I feel like I want to kill them” and could “creep in and catch them in bed together”.

He went to get two knives from the kitchen, the court heard, retrieving an 18cm chopping knife and another measuring up to 32cm.

His mother reminded him about his three children, Auty said, and she said she would call the police if he left to make the 10-mile journey to his former marital home where Helen Hancock and Griffiths were.

Denise described him as calm and appearing to have settled on his intentions, telling her he would get out of prison in his 60s.

“He told his mother that he loved her and then left the house, returning moments later and, bizarrely, shared a cup of tea with his mother one last time, as if it was his way of bidding her farewell,” Auty said.

Denise did call the police, begging them go to the scene, saying Helen had “been with another man” and her son had found out just days before.

Police investigate at the scene of the double murder. (Anita Maric/SWNS)
Police investigate at the scene of the double murder. (Anita Maric/SWNS)

“He now has two knives and is on his way there. He is in his car. His name is Rhys Hancock,” she said. “I saw him take the knives.”

Auty said Hancock was arrested just after 4.30am wearing a blood-stained shirt and told police: “I’m hardly going to deny it, look at me.”

“I walked in, walked upstairs and I stabbed them. I’m sorry,” the killer told police, adding that he had tried to stop his mother alerting anyone by taking her landlines and attempting to find her mobile.

Sentencing Hancock to life with a minimum of 31 years, Judge Nirmal Shant QC said: “You had settled on your intent to kill them both before you left your mother’s house.”

The judge said the assault on Helen Hancock was “brutal and extensive” and added: “I have not concluded that this was sadistic or sexual conduct.”

Clive Stockwell QC, defending Hancock, told the court his client should not be sentenced for life.

“The impact of his criminality on New Year’s Day has damaged the lives of many individuals,” he said.

“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.”

Senior crown prosecutor Rachel Dean said the killings “tore apart three families” and had a “profound effect on the community”.

“Helen Hancock and Martin Griffiths are missed by their loved ones every day and I know many people were shocked and saddened by their deaths.”