Man accused of murdering Long Melford woman was ‘sexually obsessed’ with her

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A mother of five from Long Melford was allegedly strangled to death by a man she had known for just over two weeks in the smoking area of a pub.

Ipswich Crown Court heard yesterday that Andrew Ratcliffe had become “sexually obsessed” with 49-year-old Mary Roberts whose body was found in a state of undress behind St Edmunds Tavern, in Bury St Edmunds on the morning of March 27, this year.

Ratcliffe, 56, of Wherstead Road, Ipswich, denies her murder.

Andrew Jackson, prosecuting, told the court that on arrest Ratcliffe had been found with a pair of Mrs Roberts’ knickers and a ring she never removed in his pocket.

Ratcliffe and Mrs Roberts had been seen drinking together on the day before her death. Mr Jackson said one witness described Mrs Roberts, formerly of Hill Close, as looking tired and worse for alcohol. The court was also told that the witness thought this was a condition Ratcliffe was taking advantage of by making sexual advances.

Ratcliffe and Mrs Roberts spent the evening of March 26 in St Edmunds Tavern and the court heard they left the pub at 11.45pm by a back door that leads to a covered smoking area.

Mr Jackson told the court that in this smoking area between midnight and 3.25am Ratcliffe strangled Mrs Roberts with enough force to break the bones in her throat.

The court was shown CCTV footage of Ratcliffe walking to the front of the pub at 3.25am.

Mr Jackson said: “He calmly lit a cigarette and he then stood smoking that cigarette for a few minutes. Then he returned back the way he had come to the back of the pub, back to where the body of Mary Roberts lay.”

Further CCTV footage shown to the court showed Ratcliffe leaving the area and walking around the streets of Bury St Edmunds arriving at the bus station on St Andrew’s Street North at about 4.10am.

Mr Jackson told the court that from the bus station Ratcliffe called an ambulance “not for Mrs Roberts but for himself” and told police and paramedics that he had been knocked unconscious following an attack. A claim Mr Jackson described as a “bare faced lie”.

Ratcliffe was arrested by police on the afternoon of March 27 wearing the same clothing as he had the day before.

The court was told that Ratcliffe and Mrs Roberts had met just over two weeks earlier and were both staying at the flat of a mutual friend in Petch Close, Bury St Edmunds.

While living in the same flat the court heard that Ratcliffe had repeatedly bought chocolate and alcohol for Mrs Roberts and appeared to be sexually interested in her.

Mr Jackson said that Mrs Roberts had told Ratcliffe she liked him as a friend but nothing more.

Mrs Roberts’ husband Nigel Roberts told the court the pair had separated the previous Christmas as a result of her on-going problem with alcohol. The pair had four sons – John, Jimmy, Luke and Carl – who were in their 20s, and a daughter Kelly, believed to be in her 30s.

The court heard that she had found this separation “devastating” and suffered from bouts of depression.

Ratcliffe was bailed after his initial arrest and moved to Wherstead Road, Ipswich, where he lived in a bedsit above a cafe.

He was arrested again on May 29 after DNA results revealed Mrs Roberts’ DNA had been under his fingertips and his DNA was present on the waistband of her knickers and her upper body.

The trial continues.