Havant barman jailed for killing girlfriend

David Cole
David Cole

Man jailed for assault after spitting at a police officer

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A barman from Havant has been jailed for killing his girlfriend in a bungled suicide pact.

David Cole was pulled semi conscious by police from the car where he had laid down on the back seat with victim Leonie Roberts at the side of a country road in Cornwall.

They had spent their last three days together fulfilling their last wishes with £5,000 which he had stolen from the pub where he worked in Bromsgrove.

They had gone to a London casino and visited London Zoo before enjoying a final night at a country house hotel and an evening in a pub in Liskeard.

Miss Roberts, aged 28, who was a bar worker from Chepstow, Wales, had thought up the pact and persuaded 36-year-old Cole to join her.

She left notes which made it plain she was planning to take her own life with or without his help but had asked him to join her in death. One asked her family not to blame Cole for her death.

They borrowed tape from a pub to seal up all the vents in the silver Ford Mondeo which they stopped beside the A387 at West Wayland, near Looe.

Miss Roberts’ body was found by police after members of the public became suspicious of the car because it had steamed up windows.

Cole survived despite inhaling so much of the carbon dioxide gas that he should have been asphyxiated by it, Exeter Crown Court was told.

The gas is not poisonous but it proved fatal because it filled the car, suffocating and starving the victim of oxygen.

Cole, now of Waterloo Road, Havant, but previously of Bromsgrove, admitted manslaughter and was jailed for four years by Judge Francis Gilbert, QC.

He told him:”You should have tried to dissuade her. You did not. You assisted her by obtaining the means to carry out the pact. You stole the cylinders and purchased the vehicle and encouraged her by falling in with her plans.”

Mr Peter Coombe, prosecuting, said the couple began an on-off relationship when they worked together at a pub in Chepstow but by the summer of 2013 he had moved to the Grapevine at Bromsgrove.

She had a history of depression and had previously taken an overdose and spoken to friends about taking her own life and being at peace.

Cole talked to other bar staff about her and of his own depression and anxiety and three days before Leonie’s death he went missing along with up to £9,000 cash and two gas bottles.

The couple bought the silver Mondeo for £1,700 and spent the next night in London, where they went to a casino and the zoo before going to a country house hotel for a final night.

On the evening of the suicide pact they had been to a pub in Liskeard where they had seemed quite normal but had borrowed a roll of tape which was later found to have been used on the car.

Mr Coombe said:”A diary written by Leonie was found in the car which showed they had been to London and made it clear she was content in her own mind with the decision and the arrangements they had made. It seems she enjoyed the last few days she lived.

“She wrote that the decision was ‘solid’ . He also wrote letters and there was one signed by both of them.

“He told the police she had told him she was going to take her own life with or without him but wanted him to be there. He said they had opened the canisters together.”

Mr Richard Smith, QC, defending, said Cole had put no pressure on Leonie, who had arrived at the decision to end her life independently.

He said:”She had calmly planned what she wanted to do and spoke of a sense of release and enjoyment. She foresaw the defendant might be blames and in her own words she wrote ‘please don’t blame him’.

“They had been to a hotel and had a good meal and her parting comments were that she was in a contented place. She took her life with his assistance in the way she wanted. The fact he failed is a mystery.”

Mr Smith said Cole has recovered from his depression and started a new life as a factory worker with the help and support of his family.