Wolverhampton College lecturer 'in stab murder'

A psychology lecturer at Wolverhampton College was stabbed up to 60 times by a colleague in a tragic end to their "volatile and explosive" 18-month relationship, a murder trial jury heard this afternoon.

Mandy Finn and Stephen Dowds
Mandy Finn and Stephen Dowds

A psychology lecturer at Wolverhampton College was stabbed up to 60 times by a colleague in a tragic end to their "volatile and explosive" 18-month relationship, a murder trial jury heard this afternoon.

Stephen Dowds left Mandy Finn to bleed to death at her rented city flat before confessing to police, Wolverhampton Crown Court was told.

Jurors heard how he was on bail for another knife attack on the mother-of-two just a month before her killing.

Miss Finn had sent Dowds, the college's former head of humanities and her one-time line manager, a message after the assault asking: "How can I trust you won't kill me?"

Jurors heard how Dowds admitted the earlier attack, which happened after the pair returned from seeing comedian Frankie Boyle at the Civic Hall, but claimed he had been provoked.

"He went to the kitchen drawer and took out a large knife which he held to her throat and snarled he would kill her," said Mr Andrew Lockhart QC, prosecuting, who also claimed Dowds had tried to smother Miss Finn with a pillow on her bed.

Miss Finn — who was studying for a PhD in psychology at Wolverhampton University as well as lecturing in the subject along with A-level sociology at the college's Paget Road campus — called 999.

The jury heard Dowds, who denies murder, can be heard on the recording swearing and insulting her.

Mr Lockhart said friends described Miss Finn, aged 40, as "strong and independent-minded" as he told how the couple's relationship had been "punctuated by episodes of heavy drinking and violence".

The pair were said to have become jealous after reading text messages on each other's phones.

Mr Lockhart said: "It's the Crown's case that in the months running up to Miss Finn's death, he was reacting in a violent and aggressive way to her that was a characteristic of the relationship and which led to her untimely death."

On October 17 last year, Miss Finn had called police to say Dowds was attacking her. Officers arrived at her home in Newhampton Road West, Whitmore Reans, and found student services manager Dowds with his hands to her throat, Mr Lockhart said.

"She had been beaten by him and injured in a significant way and he said she came at him with a knife," he said.

Dowds was charged with assault and bailed to appear before city magistrates.

Miss Finn tried to withdraw the allegation, but prosecutors refused to drop the charge, which jurors heard he has since admitted.

The pair got back together and on November 19, both were drinking at her flat, where he had been living with her despite being banned under his bail conditions.

Dowds had bought cigarettes and vodka from Bargain Booze on Tettenhall Road in the hours leading up to her murder, the court heard. Mr Lockhart said: "It's the prosecution's case that across that weekend, in all likelihood on the morning of November 20, Mr Dowds attacked Mandy Finn in a sustained and vicious stabbing.

"She sustained 60 wounds to her neck, face and upper body and bled to death in the lounge of the home that they were sharing."

He said Dowds had not called police until 6.50pm the following day "after being encouraged by others to ring 999".

Mr Lockhart said: "He told the officer he killed her by stabbing her in the neck with a kitchen knife. He was arrested and interviewed and we say he was evasive and said he could not remember the incident.

"It's likely that his position now will be that he cannot remember what happened."

He said jurors would have to decide on Dowds' state of mind at the time. Dowds, a father-of-two who used to teach at King's School in Regis Road, Tettenhall, denies murder.

Miss Finn left behind two daughters, Jade Stokes and Sallie-Jo Cramman, aged 21 and 14 respectively at the time.

The former mechanic and long-distance driver graduated in 2005 with a degree in psychology and was the highest-achieving undergraduate. The court was told that the pair's relationship was deteriorating by the spring of last year but they remained close.

Miss Finn told others she had been violent towards Dowds and had sought help to deal with the problem.

Dowds' aggressive reaction to Miss Finn had "shocked them both", the court was told.

Mr Lockhart said:"Mr Dowds has admitted the earlier assault but he doesn't admit it in the way the Crown say it happened.

"We say it was a precursor to her murder. It sets the scene for what was to come," he added.

The trial continues.