A man who murdered his wife in a “a final act of control” before fleeing 400 miles to a monastery in Scotland has been jailed for at least 21 years.
Mark Barrott, 55, hit his wife Eileen in the head with a hammer and then strangled her, at their home in Whinmoor, Leeds, after subjecting her to years of abuse.
The father-of-two fled to Scotland and his son Joel found her body in the living room on Sunday, 15 August in 2021.
Barrott took a train from Leeds to Edinburgh, before travelling further north. Over the next few days there were sightings of the killer in Aberdeen, and then more than 60 miles north of the city in the Elgin area.
After a police manhunt he was tracked down and arrested at the historic Benedictine monastery, Pluscarden Abbey, near Elgin, on 19 August.
Barrott had been hiding there using the alias of John Connelly.
Wife found dead the day after she told husband she was leaving
Barrott was sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum term of 21 years, at Bradford Crown Court after he was found guilty of murder at a nine-day trial. But he refused to attend court for the sentencing.
Judge Andrew Hatton said there was a “long history” of domestic abuse and controlling behaviour, as Barrott regularly followed his wife, hid a tracking device in her handbag and turned up unannounced when she was socialising with friends or at work.
Ms Barrott, a 50-year-old nurse who was described as “a very special and talented woman”, had been with her husband for almost 30 years.
The court heard she was found dead the day after she had told her husband that she was leaving him.
“This time you knew there were no more final chances, you knew you had exhausted them all,” said the judge.
“Your controlling and manipulation had come to an end and you killed her in a final act of control over her.”
The judge accepted Barrott suffered with severe mental health issues, including depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, but said his attempt to use the diminished responsibility defence had been dismissed.
‘My mother was a very special and talented woman’
Joel Barrott, 21, told the court he had been suffering with “debilitating” mental health problems since he found his mother’s body.
“My mother was a very special and talented woman. She was a brilliant nurse and an even better mother,” he said.
“She often gave me advice around healthcare, my future and how to be a better person. She told me right from wrong and at any point when I was struggling, she was there for me, to show me and guide me to be the man I am today.
“However, on August 15 this was all snatched away from me, by the man that I once called my dad.”
He added: “The worst pain that you have given me is that the very last memory I have of my mum is of me finding her dead and lifeless on the sofa.”
‘No longer in pain, wherever she is’
Carita Barrott, 23, told the court she lost both of her parents on the night of the murder and she was “completley devestated”.
She said: “My life was completely thrown upside down and changed so suddenly. In a flash, it changed my whole outlook on the world and shattered any hope I have left for life – any zest for life.
“I felt completely hollow and was plunged into a depression, walking around like a soulless, hollow, empty shell that no longer belonged in this world, without the biggest inspiration in my life.”
She added: “The bittersweet side was that after 23 years of my life, of abuse and control, and 27 of my mum’s, I was now free, as well as my brother and my mum. No longer in pain, wherever she is.”
She also said her dad had remained “emotionless” throughout the trial and asked him: “Do you even care?”
The judge told the court that Barrot had given several accounts of what happened on the day of the murder, but they are all “demonstrably false”.
In one version, Barrott claimed an argument broke out while he was fixing the door and he “instinctively” hit his with with a hammer after she pushed his head into the door.
Barrott said she “rushed” at him and he thought she “had a demon inside her", so he threw the hammer at her and they began fighting.
But the judge dismissed that account as “nonsense” and said he had clearly carried out a “gratuitous attack” on his “defenceless wife”.
Barrott responsible for ‘appalling catalogue’ of controlling behaviour
West Yorkshire Police Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Vanessa Rolfe said: “Mark Barrott has been shown to be someone who was responsible for an appalling catalogue of coercive and controlling behaviour against his wife Eileen over a number of years.
“When he realised that she was trying to finally break free from this toxic relationship, he acted with murderous intent.
“His cruel and selfish actions have robbed Eileen’s family and friends of her and left a huge hole in their lives.
“He fled four hundred miles from the couple’s home in the immediate aftermath of the murder in much the same way as he has sought to escape being held fully responsible for his actions during the court process.
“We hope that his conviction for murder and the life sentence he has received will provide at least some small measure of comfort to Eileen’s family and to all those who loved her.”
A statement from Eileen’s parents and children thanked police, court staff and the jury.
It also said: “Finally, we thank Eileen’s friends and colleagues who gave us so much support throughout the period leading up to Mark Barrott’s conviction. We thank all the witnesses for their courage to give evidence in court.”