Man on trial accused of murdering his partner who was strangled

Police cordon in St John's Place, Mansfield
Police cordon in St John's Place, Mansfield

A man allegedly murdered his partner "in a fit of temper" by strangling her to death with his bare hands, a jury has heard.

Michael Foster, 39, of St John’s Place, Mansfield, has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 44-year-old Paula Harris but denies her murder.

William Harbage QC, prosecuting, told his trial Foster does not dispute the fact they had an argument or that he unlawfully killed Paula.

"He doesn't dispute he had his hands around her neck when he did so," he said.

"He has pleaded guilty to the offence of manslaughter.

"We anticipate that he will claim in this trial that, somehow in a struggle between them, his hands were 'at or around her neck' but denies trying or intending to kill her or hurt her but he strangled her to death.

"The prosecution say the claim that he somehow strangled her to death without trying to hurt her is just plain nonsense."

He described the defendant murdering Paula "in a fit of temper" as he squeezed her neck with his bare hands until she was unconscious.

The first sign anything was wrong came at 10.01am on January 29 this year. Foster allegedly sent his ex-partner Julie Carroll a text that read "are you busy today?"

He asked to speak with her face-to-face, the court heard. Then she rang him and asked him what was going on, but he would not say and repeated that he wanted to see her "face-to-face".

"He added that 'his life was over'," said Mr Harbage.

She agreed to meet him half-an-hour later, but Foster sent another text message asking her "please don't talk to no one before you spoke [speak] to me, beg you".

Ms Carroll text back "I won't" and asked what had "gone off" and he replied "she's dead", followed by "please, please don't say anything. I don't know what to do" and "beg you; don't say anything. Delete my text. I'll ring you in 5".

When Ms Carroll called him, Foster allegedly said "she's dead" and he was going to go back and clean up, then move her.

She thought he was joking and put the phone down, the court heard.

"In fact, as we know now, Paula was dead," said Mr Harbage. "He killed her, we say, the previous evening and was now trying to cover his tracks."

Ms Carroll rang her mother to discuss the strange texts and concluded he was playing some sort of sick joke or a prank.

Later he apologised and said it was a "sick joke".

But Ms Carroll and her sister later decided they wanted proof Paula - who lived in a flat in the same building as her boyfriend - was alive.

Various inquiries led to the landlord going to her flat but it was locked.

Police forced entry and found her body on the floor covered in bedding and clothing.

The trial continues.