United Kingdom

Husband is jailed for more than 26 years for beating his schoolteacher wife to death

A car mechanic who murdered two women including his wife with his walking stick on the driveway of his home after taking mind-altering drugs was today jailed for life with a minimum of 26-and-a-half-years.

Daniel Appleton, 38, ranted he was God and shouted: 'I could murder you' before dragging his schoolteacher wife Amy Appleton, 32, out of their home in Crawley Down, West Sussex and beating her to death.

He then attacked defenceless pensioner Sandy Seagrave, a 76-year-old Good Samaritan, with her own walking stick when she confronted him during the savage rampage in Christmas 2019. 

Last December a jury at Lewes Crown Court in Hove convicted Appleton of murder after deciding he was in the grip of a psychotic episode after taking LSD, a powerful hallucinogenic drug.

Appleton admitted killing the two women but denied murder, claiming he did not use drugs and that he had been passively exposed to drugs while on remand in prison, where he was located with known drug users.  

However, three psychiatric assessments considered Appleton to have experienced a brief psychotic episode with hypomanic symptoms at the time of the killings. Samples of his hair and nail clippings later revealed minute traces of a psychoactive substance similar to LSD.   

At the sentencing today, Lewes Crown Court was told Appleton's 365 days spent on remand will be deducted from the minimum term.

Daniel Appleton has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 26-and-a-half years for the murders of his wife and a pensioner days before Christmas 2019

The loss of beloved schoolteacher Amy Appleton, 32, and brave passer-by Sandra Seagrave, 76, who rushed to her aid, shocked the small village of Crawley Down, West Sussex 

Last December a jury at Lewes Crown Court in Hove convicted Appleton of murder after deciding he was in the grip of a psychotic episode after taking LSD, a hallucinogenic drug

His 365 days spent on remand will be deducted from the minimum term, the court was told

'You all think I'm crazy - well I am going to show you, this is what I am!' 

Witnesses described to the jury the moments surrounding the horrific murders.

Neighbour, Ivonne Greenwell, was in her bedroom at around 10.15am on Saturday December 22 when she heard shouting.

She could hear the defendant shouting: 'I've had f***ing enough of this!

'I'm f***ing done with this!'

Ms Greenwell decided to dial 999 when she heard Appleton shout: 'I could murder you!'

Neighbour Susan Kipps said she saw Appleton pacing the driveway naked, at around 1030am.

She told police: 'I realised it was Daniel.

'He seemed very agitated and angry.

'He was sort of puffed up and behaving totally differently. His eyes weren't right.

'It was as though he had turned into the Incredible Hulk.

'He looked like he was on another planet, like he had lost the plot.

'He looked big, bold and scary.'

Janet Spragg was out running with her dog when she saw Appleton beat Ms Seagrave with her walking stick.

He grabbed the walking stick and jabbed the pensioner very forcefully into the very centre of her stomach with it, she said.

Ms Spragg said: 'He knew I was there but it was almost like there was not a lot going on facially with him, his face was set.

'There was something almost possessed.

'I think he enjoyed it because he did it with such force and, it wasn't even anger, it wasn't a release but the way he did it you could see it made him feel good,' she said.

Appleton threw the crutch down before lifting his arms and shouting at the house saying: 'You all think I'm a f***ing nutcase, you all think I'm crazy, well I am going to show you, this is what I am.'

After brutally beating his wife to death, Appleton told neighbours who gathered outside his house: 'I know I've killed my wife and I know I am going to prison.'

An eyewitness said Appleton enjoyed what he had done, waving the crutch above his head as he stood over her lifeless body before shouting a victory speech to his neighbours.

He turned the same metal stick on his wife and bludgeoned her to death before trying to kill himself.

Members of the public rushed to the aid of the two women but despite their best efforts, and those of emergency services attending the scene, both were pronounced dead. 

Appleton told a jury his memory of the savage killings was like a videotape on fast forward. 

Police found him naked in a pool of his own blood in the family kitchen.

The jury at Hove Trial Centre took two days to reach unanimous guilty verdicts on both murders.

Appleton blamed anxiety over starting a family and stress at work for the tragic events outside his home at Crawley Down near Gatwick just before Christmas last year.

Police investigating the matter spoke to a number of Mr Appleton's friends and family who said he had been acting strangely in the period leading up to the incident.

Witnesses at the scene described Mr Appleton's behaviour as agitated, angry and like he was possessed. 

A forensic pharmacologist said Appleton's behaviour was likely to be as a result of (251) NBOMe - a highly potent synthetic version of LSD.

The jury determined that drug use was a factor in causing the psychotic episode which led to the deaths of the two victims. 

Appleton, who had admitted taking drugs on a trip to Amsterdam in his 20s, told the jury his mental health started to collapse in the days leading up to his brutal assaults.

The 38-year-old was a partner in a successful specialist garage near his Sussex home.

The former businessmen owned two houses and four Audis including two classic cars. 

Phone records showed Appleton searched for information about magic mushrooms 11 days before the killings and traces of powerful synthetic hallucinogens were found in samples taken from him during his treatment and while he waited for trial in prison.

Nicholas Corsellis QC for the Crown asked him: 'Do you see the overall picture? The fact is there was drugs in your blood and you were searching on December 11 and you had taken them before?

'It's therefore a coincidence because you say your psychotic episode was brought on by stress at work.

'You say you are a self-absorbed person who overthinks things and this led you to commit such horrific, violent acts?'

Appleton said: 'Yes.'

During the second day of his evidence, Appleton offered an emotional apology to the families of the women he killed from the witness box.

Asked by his counsel, Lewis Power QC, how he felt about the deaths he said: 'I'm, I'm devastated. Absolutely devastated by what has happened.

'I don' know where, if they are here, or where they are, but I just want Amy's family to know that I'm devastated by what has happened and that I didn't mean to hurt anyone.

'Amy was very special to us all. She was loving and caring and she was just always so happy. 

Daniel Appleton, 38, had admitted killing but denied the murder in February. Pictured with his wife Amy Appleton on their wedding day in 2018. The court heard they were happily married

The incident took place outside the couple's  suburban home in Crawley, West Sussex

'Never a day goes by that we don't miss and think of our beautiful, kind, caring daughter' 

Amy's family described her as a 'strong, positive person who always smiled'.

In a statement issued after the verdict, they said: ' It has now been a year since we lost our wonderful Amy.

'Never a day goes by that we don't miss and think of our beautiful, kind, caring daughter, sister and step-sister.

'As time goes by it seems to get harder to understand how we lost her in such tragic circumstances and our family will struggle to move on.

'Amy will live on in our minds and in our hearts, and will always be missed by the many people, colleagues and school children that she knew and who loved her.

'We would like to take this opportunity to thank the police investigation team for their perseverance and hard work, together with Nicholas Corsellis and Kerry Broome, to get the justice that our Amy deserved.'

'Devastated for the loss of Mrs Seagrave and I can't bring myself to imagine the trauma that they have gone through and I'm so very sorry.

'I know sorry's not good enough but I haven't got words for any of this. It's so very tragic.'

A jury at Lewes Crown Court in Hove heard Appleton describe how he felt a deep attachment to his friends on a night out before he killed his wife and Mrs Seagrave.

He told the court he believed his friends were his guardian angels on the trip to London.

Appleton said he remembered his wife making a hysterical phone call to his parents as he lay silent and motionless on their sofa the night before he killed her.

The following morning he brought her a cup of tea in bed before his mood changed.

'I seem to remember being in the bedroom,' Appleton said.

'Amy was in bed and I said to her, 'tell me you love me and you wanna have kids with me' and I said that loud.'

He told his wife she had to go out into the street and tell the world she wanted to have his children.

Appleton said he believed he was being watched as he stood at his bedroom window.

The couple went downstairs and Amy went outside, he said.

'I seem to remember going downstairs and her sort of slipping on her slippers.

'I was following her down the stairs. 

'I believe she went to the front door and opened the door and going outside and shouting I love Daniel and I want to have kids with him.

Teacher Amy Appleton pictured at her graduation in 2010 with her husband Daniel Appleton

'A true character': Sandy Seagrave's family pay tribute after her killer is convicted

A statement released by Sandy's family following the verdict said: 'Sandy was a lady of old-fashioned values who was a true character.

'She could be intensely private but would happily talk to anyone, and she would not turn away from a situation.

'She was very well known around Crawley Down walking her dog around the village.

'Even if people didn't know her name they still knew her by sight. She had many friends among her lovely neighbours who were always willing to lend her a helping hand if it was needed.

'We, her family, miss her so much and find it so hard to understand how this tragic event occurred.

'It has left a hole in our lives as big as her personality, as I am sure it has the community of Crawley Down.

'It may be a year since she was killed but the memory and pain we all felt then is still just as fresh today.

'Her tragic death is something that is almost impossible to come to terms with.' 

'I think I remember her shouting that. I shut the door and Amy tried to get back in.

'We were just to-ing and fro-wing at the front door and she said 'Why won't you let me in?'

'I remember her saying that. We were just pushing the door to and from each other.

'I remember going outside.

'I remember seeing Amy on the floor and thinking she was hurt.

'I don't remember going over to her. I just remember being outside and the car and Amy was there.

'I just remember being outside and I seem to remember people but I can't remember where.'

Appleton said he has no memory of Mrs Seagrave or her stick. 

Following his merciless attack, Appleton tried to take his own life. He jumped out of the loft at before throwing himself down the stairs.

He used a large kitchen knife to stab himself five times in the chest, slashing both of his upper thighs attempting to cut arteries and cut his neck, head, calf muscle and forearm in what was described by the prosecution as the most determined suicide attempt.

During his arrest, Appleton continued ranting saying: 'I wanna f*** you so hard, you better get my wife here,

'I know I've only got a small willy.

'Amy get my car. Got to start my car. Make me hard, I wanna get out and f*** my wife.

'Fire up the Quattro!' 

Amy, a much-loved school teacher described as a loving, generous person, died from head injuries.

The court heard there was never any suggestion they were anything other than a loving, happily married couple.  

Appleton is expected to receive the mandatory life term when he is sentenced next month

The couple met in 2006 and had been happily married since 2018.

Sandra Seagrave, 76, maintained an active lifestyle despite needing a stick after injuring her leg in 2018.

She was well known in the community and was often seen walking her dog.

Amy was found lying on the driveway. Mrs Seagrave was left lying in the street.   

Appleton's father Gary said he was concerned about the behaviour of his son in the days leading up to the deaths, the court heard.

In a conversation with his mother, Marilyn Appleton, on December 22, Appleton said something amazing had happened.

He told his mother: 'I feel like I'm going to live forever. I feel like Jesus. I feel like God.'

Speaking after the verdict, Det Ch Insp Chris Friday of the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team, who led the investigation, said: 'This was a violent and unprovoked attack which claimed the lives of two well-loved women, and our thoughts at this time are with the families of both Amy Appleton and Sandy Seagrave.

'This has been a highly emotive and difficult case, but they have conducted themselves with bravery and dignity throughout.

'Mr Appleton turned on his wife that morning with no warning or cause, and attacked her on the driveway of their home. When Sandy confronted Mr Appleton in a bid to get him to stop, she too became a victim.

'I would like to thank everyone who supported the police investigation, including the witnesses who showed incredible bravery to help Amy and Sandy at the scene before emergency services arrived. 

'Also to all the paramedics and police officers who attended and managed what was an extremely distressing scene.'  

This is a breaking news story. More to follow. 

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