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Ex-servicewoman silently mouthed ‘Help me!’ from window moments before she was stabbed to death

A terrified ex-servicewoman silently mouthed ‘help me’ from a window moments before she was stabbed to death by a cocaine-fuelled killer who also tried to cut her head off.

Ex-military climbing instructor Sarah Hassall, 38, was overpowered by 20-stone Brian Manship who she had known for six hours.

She was found naked with 22 stab wounds and Manship had tried to cut her head off in a ‘frenzied’ knife attack, a court heard. The ‘drug-fuelled’ knifeman fled and was captured by armed police in woodland 10 hours later.

Manship, who sat in a grey sweatshirt on a video link from Long Lartin Prison, admitted murder and was today jailed for life with a minimum sentence of 20 years. 

Sarah’s estranged husband, Graham Hassall, read out a statement during Manship’s sentencing today at Swansea Crown Court and said it was the last thing he could do for his ‘wife and best friend’.

The court heard Sarah had struggled to adapt to civilian life after a distinguished military career and she had turned to alcohol to cope.

Sarah met Manship, 38, in the Skinny Dog pub at Pontypridd, South Wales, in the early hours of the morning and agreed to go back to his flat to take cocaine and have sex.

Prosecutor Michael Jones QC said: ‘At 7.45am the next morning neighbour Philip Iveson heard banging and a woman screaming: ‘Get off me, get off me.’ The noises were as if someone was being chased around.

‘Mr Iveson heard her shout: ‘I will have sex with you again. I won’t tell anyone, just let me go.”

The court heard Mr Iveson went outside and saw Sarah in the living room window of Manship’s flat.

Mr Jones said: ‘Her hair was all over the place as if she had been dragged about – she was banging on the window and repeating the words: ‘Help me’.

‘Mr Iveson said it was haunting because she was too terrified to speak the words. He then heard a man’s voice saying: ‘Get the f*** back in here.”

Neighbour Nicky Durant heard ‘horrible, sinister screaming’ on the morning of October last year which the prosecution said was silenced by Manship murdering his vulnerable victim.

Police arrived and found Sarah naked except for her socks on the floor of the blood covered flat. Manship jumped through a bedroom window to escape.

Mr Jones told Swansea Crown Court: ‘Sarah had been subjected to a savage, sustained and sadistic attack.

‘She had been stabbed 22 times, slashed seven times and a major artery was severed. It was a prolonged, vicious and ultimately fatal attack.’ 

CCTV footage showed the pair getting into a taxi together on the High Street before being driven towards the flat.

Another clip captured police catching Manship hiding in the woods while wearing blood-soaked jeans.

Paramedic Lee Morgan told police: ‘It looked like her neck had been hacked in an attempt to decapitate her. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen.’

Father-of-one Manship hid two ‘bloodied’ kitchen knives under a mattress and had tried to cover Sarah’s body with a curtain and before fleeing.

The court heard there was consensual sex between them after they had drunk vodka and taken cocaine in Graig Y Wion Court, Pontypridd.

Manship launched the knife attack after accusing Sarah of trying to steal from him.

Sarah’s soldier husband Graham, 51, told Manship in a victim impact statement: ‘Not only did you exploit a vulnerable person half your size you went on to knife her in a protracted manner.

‘There were bruises and scratches on her tiny face but they are a mere fraction of the numerous knife wounds you inflicted on her.

‘I live with those visions every single day. I have no doubt that her last thought was for her two tiny children she left behind.’

Sarah had previously served with both the RAF and the Royal Engineers for 14 years. 

But she left the forces after failing a compulsory drugs test and later separated from husband Graham.

The mother-of-two from Chelmsford, Essex, was due to visit her two sons Owain, 10, and Evan, eight, on the day she was murdered.

After Manship was arrested he said: ‘I’m quite pleased the police caught me, I can get a good night’s sleep now.’

Manship, who had a previous history of controlling behaviour and violence towards women, wrote a letter to the court saying he was ‘sorry and remorseful’.

Peter Rouch, defending, said: ‘He thought she was trying to steal from him when he was fuelled by a cocktail of drink and drugs.

‘He over-reacted and assaulted her but has no recollection of using the knives.’ 

Judge Keith Thomas told Manship: ‘Sarah Hassall was a much-loved mother. sister and wife – this was a tragic and senseless loss of life.

‘Sarah found it difficult to adapt to civilian life when she left the Army to bring up her two sons and turned to alcohol as her life spiralled downwards.

‘She was getting her life back on track when she met you. A neighbour saw Mrs Hassall at the window saying: “Help me, help me.”

‘You berated, belittled and attacked Mrs Hassall who was a much smaller person in stature and no match for you in any physical attack.’

‘By 8.24 that morning Mrs Hassall was fatally injured and you had left by a window.’

Soldier Mr Hassall, who lives near Monmouth, South Wales, wept as the judge sentenced his wife’s killer.

Adventurous Sarah was a member of RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue team in Moray, Scotland in the early years of her military career. 

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