A woman befriended and preyed upon a 74-year-old man, lived in his home, and drained him of his life savings before going on to murder him.
Barry Spooner was found dead in the cellar of his home in Gladstone Street, Forest Fields, Nottingham at around 8pm on Wednesday 7 June 2023, after concerns were raised about his welfare.
He was murdered by 44-year-old Sarah Hansford almost two weeks earlier – on 25 May 2023.
Mr Spooner had met Hansford in 2020 and he took pity on her after she told him she was homeless.
From that point on she subjected him to ‘mental and physical suffering’, using a ‘combination of persuasion, threats, aggression and violence’ to cause him to give her his life savings to fund her drug habit – somewhere between £20,000 and £24,000.
Mr Spooner died as a result of a stab wound to his neck after Hansford attacked him in his own home and then dumped him in the cellar. After a day or two she tried to cover up his body using cardboard boxes and clutter.
Evidence was also found that Hansford had spotlessly cleaned the flat and also cleaned Mr Spooner’s body to get rid of incriminating evidence after she had killed him.
As the police investigation progressed, it became apparent that Hansford went on to fraudulently withdraw hundreds of pounds from his account following his death.
She disguised herself as an old man, cut her hair, and pretended to be Mr Spooner before making withdrawals from his bank account and spending the money on food and drugs.
Mr Spooner, described as a “kind and gentle man” by his family, was born and raised in Nottingham and also lived in Germany during his time with the Royal Signals regiment.
His family said:
“Barry was loved by all in our family. He was a great brother and a dear uncle who was taken away far too early. He will be sadly missed by all.
“He was a devoted family man who would help anyone in need. It is sad for us that no farewell words were spoken and that we had no time to say goodbye to him. He was gone before we knew it.”
Hansford, formerly of Brunswick Avenue, Coalville, Leicestershire, was arrested on 8 June 2023 on suspicion of murder and was subsequently charged.
She pleaded guilty to murder when she appeared at Nottingham Crown Court on Monday 4 December 2023. She also pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud by false representation and possession of a knife in a public place.
Hansford also admitted a further count of attempted robbery – relating to an incident at a store in Forest Fields on 26 May 2023. She threatened a shop worker with a knife and tried to grab the till from the counter before leaving the store.
Hansford was given a life sentence, and was told it will be a minimum of 22-and-a-half years until she could be considered for release.
In a victim impact statement, which he read to the court, Darren McMahon, Mr Spooner’s nephew, described Hansford as a ‘vile and evil person’.
“We, as a family, are broken-hearted. Barry would go out of his way to help anybody, and I will forever be haunted at the thought of his last moments and tortured knowing he would have been unable to defend himself. I will never forgive his killer who dehumanised him in a cruel way.”
Mr Spooner’s sister, Valerie McMahon, described him as ‘a wonderful human being who was well-loved.’
Sentencing Hansford, Judge Nirmal Shant KC said:
“Over a period of nearly two years, after he was kind enough to give you a home, you took his life savings by means of violence, menace, and whatever it took.
“You showed no remorse. You said you were not sorry that you killed him and he deserved to die and you told lie after lie to get your hands on his money. You made a concerted attempt after his death to take more money from him.”
Detective Chief Inspector Clare Dean, of the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU), said:
“CCTV footage showed Mr Spooner leaving his flat home on 25 May 2023 to buy items at a local shop. After this, he did not leave his home again alive.
“Around 2020, Hansford befriended him. She had been staying with him and cruelly took advantage of him before brutally murdering him.
“This was a chilling and savage case and Hansford is clearly a very dangerous individual. I’d like to commend Mr Spooner’s family for the dignity and strength that they have shown during our investigation and hope they can draw some comfort from this sentence.”