Cherished mother and soldier who served in Afghanistan was murdered by partner who had already been arrested for domestic abuse, inquest hears

A popular and bright young woman who had served in the Army was murdered by her partner while he was on bail for assaulting her, an inquest has heard.

Monday, 8th March 2021, 5:02 pm
Amy-Leanne Stringfellow. Picture: SWNS

Army reservist Amy-Leanne Stringfellow, from Doncaster, was murdered in June last year by on-off partner Terence Papworth, 45.

The 26-year-old mother was smashed over the head with a vodka bottle before being strangled and slashed in the throat with ornamental swords in the horrific attack at Papworth's home in Balby, before he then called a friend to say "I've done it - I've killed her".

Papworth handed himself in at Doncaster Police Station around an hour after Ms Stringfellow is thought to have been attacked on the evening of Saturday, June 5, and was subsequently charged with murder.

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However, Papworth was found dead in his cell in November last year days before he was due to face trial over the murder.

A coroner heard on Monday how Ms Stringfellow, who was a keen bodybuilder and had served in Afghanistan as part of the military, had gotten into a relationship with Papworth in October the previous year, with friends describing how he had been "loved up".

However, a statement read in court by Ms Stringfellow's mother, Jacqueline Fareham, described how her family had raised concerns about the relationship and that he had displayed signs of jealousy and control – detailing how on one occasion Papworth had contacted the family demanding to see her after an argument.

The inquest at Doncaster Coroner's Court also heard how Papworth had sprung a surprise proposal on Amy-Leanne in a video posted on Facebook, which she had reluctantly accepted but later expressed reservations over.

In May 2020, Papworth was arrested on suspicion of assault and making threats to kill Ms Stringfellow after threatening her with a gun, before being released on bail on the condition of not making any contact with her.

During the early evening of June 5, Amy-Leanne Stringfellow was seen on CCTV arriving at Papworth's home on Dryden Road in Doncaster.

The couple drank alcohol and took MDMA, both of which were later found in a post-mortem in Ms Stringfellow's body in moderate amounts, with pathologist Dr Charles Wilson saying neither had been enough to cause her death.

Papworth had also carved his initials onto her body with a blade and made her do the same with hers to him, it was heard.

Dr Wilson said the post-mortem revealed 58 injuries to Ms Stringfellow's body, including swelling of the brain likely caused by asphyxia.

Detective Constable Mark Briggs, of South Yorkshire Police's Major Crime Unit in charge of the investigation, told the court that pictures on Papworth's phone showed Ms Stringfellow had been alive at 8:15pm, but that evidence showed she had been attacked at around 10:35pm.

In a call made to a friend shortly after the murder, Papworth said, "I've done it", before adding, "I've killed her...I hit her over the head with a bottle and I've killed her – I've had enough".

Officers later called to the scene by another friend of Papworth's had to force entry and found Ms Stringfellow lying unresponsive on a bed. A broken vodka bottle and two ornamental swords were also found at the scene.

Paramedics were called but, tragically, she was pronounced dead shortly after midnight on Sunday, June 6.

Mother Mrs Fareham, with whom it was heard Ms Stringfellow had had a close relationship, said in a statement how her daughter had been a "popular" and "bright" young woman who was "fearless and self-assured".

"[Papworth] originally appeared to be perfect and I treated him like a member of the family," she said.

The statement added: "She seemed to be distancing herself from myself. She stopped telling me details about her was as if she was slipping away.

"Phone calls became less and less."

Mrs Fareham described Papworth as being paranoid and told her daughter to leave him.

Her statement also revealed how, in a heartbreaking and dark irony, Ms Stringfellow as a child had witnessed her mother being assaulted by her partner and bravely encouraged her to leave him.

Ms Stringfellow's family, who were present in court for the hearing, discovered she had died after Mrs Fareham was informed of a police cordon at Papworth's home and rushed to the scene, where she was told what had happened.

"This was the worst moment of my life," she said.

Recording a verdict of unlawful killing, assistant coroner Louise Slater described the case as "particularly harrowing", with Ms Stringfellow's cause of death recorded as being from multiple injuries from a "sustained" attack.

In July last year, South Yorkshire Police referred the case onto the Independent Office of Police Conduct for investigation into the force's contact with Papworth and Ms Stringfellow in the month before her death. The investigation remains ongoing and a domestic homicide review was also underway.