A jealous lover, who murdered his former girlfriend in a fit of temper, will be kept behind bars for a minimum of 15 years.
James Gray, 25, was yesterday jailed for life, with a minimum term of 15 years before he can be considered for parole, at Bradford Crown Court.
Gray strangled 22-year-old mother-of-two Jade Watson with his bare hands, and struck her over the head, in a jealous rage after discovering she was in a new relationship.
The sentencing judge, Mr Justice Globe, said Miss Watson, who lived in Wrose, Shipley, and worked at the In Plaice fish and chip shop in Sunbridge, Road, Bradford, was a “vibrant, fun-loving, passionate” young lady, much loved by her family and the hundreds of people who attended her funeral and memorial services.
The judge told Gray: “By your actions you have prematurely, and unnecessarily, ended the life of a 22-year-old young mother of two young children, and caused a devastating loss to all of those close to her.”
He said Gray had inflicted blows to her head with a bike lock and manually strangled her, in the caravan where he was living in the garden of his mother’s home in Wood Lane, Swain House, Bradford, on November 5 last year.
Gray, a sales assistant at a builder’s merchant, admitted the manslaughter of Miss Watson but denied her murder. But a jury convicted him after only two hours.
Gray, who was wearing a dark suit and tie and white shirt, showed no emotion as he stood with his hands clasped in front of him to be sentenced.
Mr Justice Globe said Gray had shown selfishness and a lack of maturity, and his account to the jury had lacked credibility.
He said: “The expert evidence established a great degree of violence, with more than one blow, strangling for at least 30 seconds, and a deep muscle tear in the back commonly associated with struggling during the attack.
“The case is aggravated by a measure of mental and physical suffering inflicted on Jade, after you commenced your attack on her and before she ultimately died.”
Gray and Miss Watson had met as teenagers and had a relationship which lasted a few months.
After it ended, Gray worked in Afghanistan, supporting the armed services in a civilian capacity, and then returned to this country.
After Miss Watson broke up with the father of her two children, in 2012, she and Gray recommenced their relationship.
But when she ceased the relationship he put unnecessary pressure on her. Miss Watson began seeing Christopher Gill and planned to move to his country farm.
But last October, Gray saw a picture of them together on Facebook, with a caption saying they were in a relationship.
The judge said: “I am satisfied from at least that time onwards you knew, or suspected, your relationship with her was at an end.”
Gray bombarded Miss Watson with text messages, and the judge said he was satisfied from them that Gray had put unreasonable pressure on her to meet him on November 5 when she was reluctant to do so.
Mr Justice Globe added: “I am in no doubt that when you lost your temper and manually strangled Jade, you then intended to kill her. No other interpretation is consistent with you exerting pressure round her neck for at least 30 seconds.”
But the judge said he was satisfied there was no premeditation to kill or cause really serious harm, and what happened in the caravan was spontaneous.
He did not consider Gray had been provoked, but he was provoking her.
In mitigation, Gray’s barrister, Stephen Meadowcroft QC, said the defendant had been under stress before November 5 and had been treated for depression.
He was a young man with limited experience and lacking maturity. He was a hardworking young man who had never been in trouble and had admitted immediately at the scene being responsible for Jade’s unlawful killing.
But the judge said Gray was not clinically depressed and he told him: “You were only 25 at the time of the murder – however, you were a mature adult, in full-time employment, carrying out a responsible job.”
Mr Justice Globe said there was only one sentence that could be passed – life imprisonment. But he was required to set the minimum term of that sentence which in his case was 15 years.
He added: “By minimum term, I mean the term that must be served before your case can be referred to the Parole Board for consideration of your release on licence, the actual time you must stay in prison before that process can commence. Whether or not you may be released at the minimum time will be a matter entirely for the Parole Board.”