'Flat of Horrors': Horror film fan and boyfriend found guilty of murdering stranger

10 November 2020, 10:46

A serial killer fan and his boyfriend have been found guilty of killing and dismembering a woman they met in a pub.

Nathan Maynard-Ellis, 30, and David Leesley, 25, met their victim Julia Rawson by chance in a pub in Dudley and took her in a taxi to his flat - now dubbed the Flat of Horrors - on the weekend of the of 11 May last year.

Jurors were told the couple's home in Mission Drive, Tipton, West Midlands, had a workbench equipped with tools including an axe, and also contained stuffed creatures, snakes and "gory" home-made horror masks.

Once inside, the pair killed Julia and dismembered her body, before disposing of her body in two separate locations.

Her body parts, including her severed head, hands and feet, were later found on June 12 and 29 2019.

Opening the prosecution's case at the start of the trial, Crown counsel Karim Khalil QC urged jurors to act dispassionately given the "especially gruesome" allegations.

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The images of Maynard-Ellis talking to Ms Rawson at Dudley's Bottle and Cork pub had been circulated as officers investigated
The images of Maynard-Ellis talking to Ms Rawson at Dudley's Bottle and Cork pub had been circulated as officers investigated. Picture: PA
Undated handout photo issued by West Midlands Police of David Leesley who has been found guilty by a jury at Coventry Crown Court of the murder of Julia Rawson
Undated handout photo issued by West Midlands Police of David Leesley who has been found guilty by a jury at Coventry Crown Court of the murder of Julia Rawson. Picture: PA

He told the court: "The prosecution case can be stated quite shortly - for many years Maynard-Ellis has harboured dark thoughts that have focused mainly on the sexual assault of women and their violent killing.

"He has shown a particular interest in certain themes involving serial killers and the dismemberment of bodies.

"His boyfriend, David Leesley, knew of these interests, since their flat was full of printed materials, DVDs and videos about serial killers and the violent sexual abuse of women."

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Maynard-Ellis, a former film and TV student, told the jury he had not harboured any desire to "re-enact" horror movies, having lashed out with a rolling pin after Ms Rawson made "moves" towards him.

Addressing what happened to Ms Rawson, Mr Khalil told the court: "Julia could not have known that she was about to enter a 'flat of horrors' - but she must have realised this very soon after she went in.

"By way of description, there were numerous stuffed creatures on the walls, snakes and reptiles in tanks, and many gory face-masks of characters from horror films that Nathan Maynard-Ellis used to make."

Among items in the lounge, Mr Khalil said, was a model of somebody holding a knife, while swords and spiders were mounted on a wall.

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A workbench, tools and doll's heads found at the home of Nathan Maynard-Ellis in Tipton
A workbench, tools and doll's heads found at the home of Nathan Maynard-Ellis in Tipton. Picture: PA
Jurors were told the couple's home in Mission Drive, Tipton, West Midlands, had a workbench equipped with tools including an axe
Jurors were told the couple's home in Mission Drive, Tipton, West Midlands, had a workbench equipped with tools including an axe. Picture: PA

Jurors were told that both defendants behaved normally in the days after Ms Rawson was killed - with Maynard-Ellis appearing "very happy" as he celebrated his birthday on May 21.

Jurors deliberated for seven hours and 25 minutes before convicting Maynard-Ellis of murder, as well as four counts of rape and one of attempted rape relating to historical allegations made by a woman following his arrest.

Maynard-Ellis was not in court on Monday to hear the jury's verdicts after being taken ill and losing his sense of taste in prison last week, while David Leesley was present in the dock.

He will be sentenced alongside Leesley, who was unanimously convicted of murder, at a later date.

Both defendants had admitted perverting the course of justice and concealing a body after the dismemberment of Ms Rawson's remains.

Speaking after the verdicts, Detective Inspector Jim Colclough said the victim's family had been left devastated.

The senior officer said: "Julia's family is really close-knit and really very private. It's clear Julia was a very talented artist, she was a good musician.

"She was a loving daughter and a loving sister. They are absolutely devastated by the whole trail of events that has taken place.

"I hope the result from court provides some form of closure at the very least for the family so that they can move on and carry their grief forward.

"It's been a terrible time and my heart really does go out to them."