A WOMAN trapped in a complex and volatile relationship was today starting a life sentence for murdering the man she loved with a ferocious knife blow to his heart.

Alexia Heckles, who suffers from "emotionally unstable personality disorder" must serve more than 12 years behind bars before she can be considered for release.

She chose to remain in the cells at Bradford Crown Court when the jury delivered its verdict of Guilty to the murder of Scott Dunne and while the trial judge, Mr Justice Stuart-Smith, passed sentence.

Heckles' barrister, Michelle Colborne QC, said the 35-year-old mother-of-four was too distressed to come back into the dock.

During the trial, the court heard that Mr Dunne, 41, died from blood loss after Heckles thrust a large kitchen knife through his heart, cutting his fourth rib, shortly after midnight on January 18.

The couple's "complicated and volatile relationship" led to neighbours often hearing loud arguments from the flat, the trial heard, with Heckles' "loud angry voice" going on hour after hour.

That night, the couple, who both battled drugs and alcohol misuse, got into a struggle in the bedroom after sounds of furniture being displaced.

Heckles ran out of the flat screaming for help after fatally wounding Mr Dunne.

Speaking after the verdict, Miss Colborne said: "She loved this man dearly but knew it was a flawed relationship."

Andrew Kershaw, for the Crown, said victim statements from Mr Dunne's sister and his daughter, Jade, showed he was "a loyal, intelligent and caring member of the family."

Mr Kershaw said Heckles had 41 previous convictions, that included three custodial sentences, for robbery, wounding and assault and attempted house burglary and handling stolen goods.

Sentencing Heckles, Mr Justice Stuart-Smith said: "Only she knows the truth of what happened that night but the jury's verdict reflects the strong evidence against her."

Heckles did not set out to kill Mr Dunne and would not have intended to kill him when in anything like her right mind.

She did not take the knife into the bedroom but formed the intention to kill in the heat of the moment.

It was a ferocious attack "holding the knife firmly with the tip down and plunging it downwards."

Heckles' grief afterwards, captured on CCTV footage fromTrafalgar House Police Station, "was terrible to see," the judge said.

She was provoked by Mr Dunne's refusal to leave the flat that night and by the abusive nature of their relationship.

"This was not a stab that was meant to just wound: it was meant to kill. But it was an intention that was formed in the heat of the moment in the context of a prolonged domestic argument," Mr Justice Stuart-Smith said.

Heckles must spend a minimum of 12 and a half years in jail, less the five months and 28 days she has spent in prison on remand.

After the case, Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Jon Morgan, said: "Domestic abuse has a devastating impact on many people's lives and this case highlights how it can easily escalate into a tragedy.

"A single stab wound to the chest was all it took to end Scott Dunne's life.

"Though justice has been done for the victim in this case, there are many other people, men and women, trapped in violent relationships. There is support out there and I would urge people to seek help to change their situation before it escalates to the level of anger and lack of control that results in murder."