Bury St Edmunds: Mary Roberts allegedly strangled by man who was sexually obsessed with her

Floral tributes for Mary Roberts who was found in the car park of the St Edmunds Tavern in Bury St E

Floral tributes for Mary Roberts who was found in the car park of the St Edmunds Tavern in Bury St Edmunds. - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk woman was strangled after she resisted the advances of a man who was “sexually obsessed” with her, it has been alleged.

In the weeks before her death, mother-of-five Mary Roberts had been plied with chocolates and alcohol by 56-year-old Andrew Ratcliffe but had made it clear she didn’t want a relationship with him, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

When Ratcliffe was arrested after the discoverey of Mrs Roberts’ partially clothed body at the rear of a Bury St Edmunds pub he had a pair of her knickers and a ring she always wore in his coat pocket, said Andrew Jackson, prosecuting.

On the evening of her death 49-year-old Mrs Roberts had been out drinking with Ratcliffe, who has denied murdering her, and witnesses allegedly saw him take advantage of her inebriated state by touching her in a sexual way.

Mrs Roberts’ body was found by the landlady of the St Edmunds Tavern at around 8am on March 27 in a covered smoking area at the rear of the pub and a post-mortem examination found she had been strangled with sufficient force to break bones in her throat.

CCTV cameras showed Ratcliffe leaving the smoking area at around 3.25am and “calmly” lighting a cigarette and smoking it for several minutes before returning to the back of the pub where he had allegedly left Mrs Roberts for dead, said Mr Jackson.

He had then walked around Bury St Edmunds until 4.10am when he went to a telephone box and called for an ambulance for himself claiming he’d been attacked and knocked unconscious.

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He was taken to hospital but released after doctors couldn’t find any sign of injury and later that day he was arrested by police at a flat in Petch Close in Bury St Edmunds, said Mr Jackson.

At the police station it was discovered he had a pair of Mrs Roberts’ knickers - not the ones she was wearing when she died - and a ring she always wore in his pockets.

Blood on his fingernails was found to have Mrs Roberts’ DNA in it and Ratcliffe’s DNA was found on Mrs Roberts’ left breast and on the waistband of her knickers, said Mr Jackson.

He told the court that Ratcliffe’s claimed he had woken up in the smoking area between two picnic tables and hadn’t seen Mrs Roberts’ body.

Mr Jackson claimed that Ratcliffe had been “sexually obsessed” with Mrs Roberts and had allegedly sexually assaulted her and murdered her after she resisted his advances.

The court heard that Mrs Roberts was an alcoholic and had suffered from depression following a serious accident in 2001. Her condition had deteriorated after her husband Nigel Roberts left her in December last year and by March the electricity at her bungalow in Long Melford had been cut off.

She had been taken in by a friend who let her sleep on the sofa of his flat in Petch Close, Bury St Edmunds and Ratcliffe had also been staying at the same flat after being made homeless.

In the weeks before Mrs Roberts’ death the owner of the flat allegedly noticed that Ratcliffe had a sexual interest in her. “Mary Roberts told him she wasn’t interested in him. She like him as a friend and nothing more than that,” said Mr Jackson.

He said that while police investigated Mrs Roberts’ death Ratcliffe had lived in a bedsit in Wherstead Road, Ipswich and had allegedly told a witness “I murdered someone,”

The trial, which is expected to last a week, continues today.