'Jealous' Mark Brandford jailed for 23 years for murder of Kayleigh Dunning

A ‘JEALOUS’ boyfriend found guilty of brutally murdering his fiancee by crushing her skull after spending years secretly sending naked images of her to friends has been jailed for 23 years.

By Steve Deeks
Monday, 8th March 2021, 12:06 pm
Updated Monday, 8th March 2021, 1:31 pm

Colas road sweeper Mark Brandford, 49, was found to be behind the ‘ferocious’ murder of Kayleigh Dunning at his Kingston Crescent flat in North End overnight on December 16-17, 2019.

Jurors at Portsmouth Crown Court unanimously convicted him last month for murder and a revenge porn charge after a seven week trial that was delayed due to Brandford having to isolate after coming into contact with a prison inmate who was Covid positive.

At his sentencing hearing today, Brandford was handed down the term of incarceration by judge Timothy Mousley QC.

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Mark Brandford has been convicted of murdering 32-year-old Kayleigh Dunning in Portsmouth overnight on December 16-17 in 2019. Picture: Hampshire police

Brandford, who was not present in court when he was found guilty after having to isolate again, was in the dock on this occasion to find out his fate.

Wearing a face mask, as he did throughout the whole trial, Brandford remained motionless when the judge delivered his sentence.

Brandford will serve a life sentence with a minimum of 23 years behind bars minus 441 days on remand. He was also handed a 21 month sentence for the revenge porn charge to run concurrently to the murder sentence.

Judge Mousley told Brandford the murder was ‘premeditated and planned’ before he used a crowbar to deliver around 30 blows to his victim’s head as well as stabbing her in the neck with a knife.

Police investigating after Kayleigh Dunning was found dead in Kingston Crescent, Portsmouth on December 17, 2019. Mark Brandford is on trial at Portsmouth Crown Court accused of her murder. Inset, Kayleigh Dunning. Picture taken December 20. Picture: Ben Fishwick/Hampshire police

‘It was a brutal attack,’ he said. ‘She was struck in the head and face and it was to her great courage that she tried to defend herself.

‘But your attack was so ferocious that you rendered her unconscious and immobile.

‘It was clear you intended to kill her.’

He added: ‘You hit her repeatedly - probably about 30 blows to her head. These injuries were probably fatal.

The crowbar recovered by police investigating the death of Kayleigh Dunning in Portsmouth. Mark Brandford is on trial at Portsmouth Crown Court accused of her murder. He denies the charge. Picture: Hampshire police

‘You then attacked her with a sharp knife that was never found. She was motionless by this point. You then stabbed her to the neck around nine times, severing arteries and causing catastrophic blood loss, causing her death.’

The judge told Brandford his ‘deep feelings of jealousy’ were fuelled by his knowledge of Ms Dunning’s relationship with her former boyfriend Dean Drooney. ‘People close to Kayleigh say Dean was the love of her life...and you might have realised that,’ he said.

‘I’m satisfied you are someone who seeks to control others and you wanted to have Kayleigh as a possession.’

Judge Mousely said Brandford’s ‘outwardly pleasant demeanour’ belied his sinister nature with him ‘reacting very aggressively’ on occasions towards Ms Dunning.

The court also heard Brandford assaulted a previous partner years ago with a hammer - highlighting his violence and tendency to lash out with weapons.

Brandford’s ruthless campaign against Ms Dunning was manifested with his concerted revenge porn agenda that she was oblivious to where he sent explicit images and videos of his victim to her relatives, friends and work colleagues. ‘It shows all the hallmarks of seeking to control and coerce,’ the judge said.

But he added: ‘You were never able to control her, she was far too independently minded. She enjoyed life and was something of a free spirit.’

Branford’s ‘malicious’ motives to kill his girlfriend was laid bare after he took a work crowbar from a work lockup two months before her murder, as well as his efforts to ‘implicate others’ for posting explicit pictures and images of her.

‘You wanted to show you were the one she wanted to have a relationship with,’ judge Mousley said.

Ms Dunning was murdered at some point overnight from the evening of December 16 to the early morning of December 17, with Brandford then setting about like ‘nothing had happened’ during his ‘carefully planned’ behaviour in the hours after the pair had got engaged and posted pictures of the announcement on social media.

This included sending her text messages and being seen around the city by friends and in betting shops while Ms Dunning's blood-soaked body was on his bed.

‘You showed no emotion let alone any remorse,’ the judge told Brandford.

Describing Ms Dunning, judge Mousley said: ‘Kayleigh was described as a vulnerable and sensitive person who needed guidance.

‘Her mum said she was feisty and would not back down in an argument. She was popular and well liked.

‘The police investigation found no one brought her any malice apart from you.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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