Despite his denials, 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, who retired to consider their verdicts over murder and revenge porn last Thursday lunchtime, unanimously convicted him today after spending around another hour deliberating this morning.
Brandford was convicted of a revenge porn charge on Friday.
He was not present in the dock when the verdict was returned at just after 11.35am today as he was isolating in HMP Winchester having undergone a Covid-19 test.
Judge Timothy Mousley QC, who ordered nothing could be reported until 12.30pm so Brandford could be told of his conviction, said he will sentence the convicted killer on Friday.
The judge thanked jurors for their ‘conscientious’ efforts – with the case lasting into its seventh week instead of just four as had been planned due to Brandford earlier isolating in prison.
‘There were times when I thought the case would grind to a halt, which would have been extremely unsatisfactory for everyone concerned in it,’ he said.
He also said they ‘played a big part’ in local history as they were involved in the first murder case heard at Portsmouth Crown Court.
During the trial, the court heard how just hours after the pair celebrated becoming engaged, Brandford turned on the 32-year-old cleaner in a ‘prolonged’ attack that saw him repeatedly deliver blunt force blows to the victim’s skull possibly using a suspected crowbar.
Brandford admitted during his evidence that he was angered by Ms Dunning calling him by the name of her former lover Dean Drooney, with whom she was in a sexual relationship.
Despite initially fighting back and suffering defensive wounds, Ms Dunning was eventually rendered immobile by the savagery.
That left her lover free to mercilessly land more strikes with the weapon and then thrust a knife at least six inches in length into her neck up to nine times, severing main arteries and causing catastrophic blood loss.
Ms Dunning was left with multiple skull fractures and fractures to her arms where she had tried to fend off her murderer.
After killing Ms Dunning - leaving her naked body bloodsoaked in his bed - Brandford then set about portraying a picture of innocence and normality on December 17 after leaving his flat around 5am.
It was just one of many occasions where Brandford had been called the wrong name by Ms Dunning, leaving the defendant’s rage to increasingly ‘build and build’ until he exploded.
However, despite his low-level intellect, Branford still had the presence of mind to showcase his normal ‘happy-go-lucky’ self following the murder.
CCTV captured him in his high-vis vest going to McDonald’s for a hot chocolate and roaming the streets hours before he started work.
Later in the day he went to meet friends, visited betting shops and even sent his ‘princess’ Ms Dunning a message about their engagement as fears among those close to her were growing over her whereabouts. Police were also called but Brandford still kept up the ‘act’.
Brandford was also seen ‘loitering’ in Mablethorpe Road, Wymering, by a PCSO. This was despite the area not being on his usual route. The location was the site where a crowbar thought to be used for the murder was found in bushes three months later.
Today judge Mousley said officers finding the crowbar was an ‘excellent piece of police work’ and added: ‘It must have been a painstaking task, and of course it proved to be a very important piece of evidence.’
After finally returning home on the evening of December 17, Brandford had to ‘step up his playacting’.
He called 999 after returning to his flat where Ms Dunning was dead.
Brandford carried out CPR like he was ‘softly playing a piano’ fully in the knowledge she was dead before paramedics arrived. The first of those on scene was suspicious of his ‘strange’ behaviour where he tried to make himself sick, cried with no tears and pretended to stumble.
‘You were trying to get away with murder,’ prosecutor Simon Jones told Brandford.
Jealous Brandford had conceived the plan to murder Ms Dunning before carrying out the act, with him ‘sowing the seeds’ of doubt it could be someone else after calling police days before to say there had been an intruder in his flat.
Explicit videos and pictures of Ms Dunning had also been sent to her inner circle from someone with a perceived axe to grind.
A fake Facebook account featuring a nude photo of Ms Dunning was set-up with friend requests sent out to people to add to her humiliation.
Brandford, a black man, had used racist language and inaccurate details to deflect from the reality that he was behind the campaign in 2018/19.
All the videos and images sent were also on his phone.
Brandford had denied murder and revenge porn amid a myriad of lies and fantasy cover-ups.