Man admits fitness instructor murder

A 40-YEAR-OLD man today admitted murdering Suffolk fitness instructor Mary Griffiths.

A FITNESS instructor is facing a life jail sentence after he admitted murdering a Suffolk mother-of-three in her own home.

Mary Griffiths, who was also a fitness coach, had become so worried about the unrequited attentions of John McFarlane that she called the police - only to be murdered by him a few hours later.

The 38-year-old's three daughters were at the family home in Bullrush Crescent, Bury St Edmunds, when she was attacked by McFarlane, 40, on May 6 this year. She died a short time later of a serious chest injury at West Suffolk Hospital.

McFarlane, of Bockhill Road, Bury, had initially denied Ms Griffiths' murder. But dramatically changed his plea to guilty at Ipswich Crown Court.

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The case has been adjourned until next week so that family and friends of Ms Griffiths can be present when he is sentenced.

Friends of Ms Griffiths, who was on crutches because of a leg injury at the time of attack, have told how she had become increasingly concerned for her safety in the hours before McFarlane visited her home.

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They had told her not to open her door to anybody and to call the police.

She telephoned the police to say McFarlane had been harassing her. It remains unclear exactly what forms of harassment took place, but it is understood it had included a string of telephone messages.

McFarlane knew Ms Griffiths through a shared interest in health and they had worked together at the sports centre in Bury St Edmunds.

He was a fellow fitness coach who used to stand in to teach her classes when she was unable to attend.

The pair had enjoyed a friendship until shortly before Ms Griffiths was murdered. Ms Griffiths, who had worked as a fitness instructor at both Bury and Newmarket's leisure centres, had even sent him a message on social networking website Facebook congratulating him on his 40th birthday.

The message read: “Happy 40th !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Enjoy your day!!!”

Speaking after his guilty plea yesterday, one of his former body combat students, who asked not to be named, told how everybody she knew was “completely shocked” by the incident.

“He had always seemed like a happy enough guy to those who knew him and met him. But he obviously did it because he has admitted it.

“He must have a little bit strange in the head and nobody saw it.”

McFarlane was known to the mental health services prior to Ms Griffiths' murder, because just days before the incident he had tried to kill himself. It is understood he had also tried to kill himself after fatally wounding Ms Griffiths.

Suffolk Mental Health Partnership Trust has confirmed an investigation into its contact with McFarlane was being carried out.

After Ms Griffiths' death, her family paid a moving tribute, calling her the “very best” mother, sister, daughter and friend.

They said: “We are blessed to have her in our lives. Sadly this has been taken away from us, and we will never get over her sad tragic loss.

“She will be dearly missed by all. We would appreciate the time to grieve the loss of our 'beloved angel' Mary Frances, and would ask you to please respect what we and the girls are trying to come to terms with. Rest in peace our beautiful sweet angel, you will always be in our hearts.”

AN investigation into Suffolk police's handling of the case is still ongoing following revelations that Mary Griffiths had raised her fears about John McFarlane just hours before her murder.

Earlier this year the EADT revealed how Ms Griffiths, 38, had become increasingly worried for her safety because of the actions of her fellow fitness instructor McFarlane.

She raised those concerns with friends who urged her to contact the police and warned her against opening her door to anybody.

At about 6pm on the night she died she dialled 999 saying she was being harassed and asked for police help. Friends claim she was told the police would be around a little later but they did not appear.

Shortly before 3am the police were called to Ms Griffiths' home in Bullrush Crescent where she was found fighting for life as a result of stab wounds.

She was taken to West Suffolk Hospital but died there a short time later.

The Suffolk force's handling of the case was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) by the force shortly after the incident.

Investigators from the IPCC visited the scene to carry out an assessment shortly after her death.

A spokesman for the IPCC last night confirmed its investigation was still ongoing and said he was unsure how long it might be until a decision on the matter is made.

At the time of the initial investigation the IPCC Commissioner Len Jackson said: “People will be understandably shocked and concerned by this vicious attack on a woman in her own home.

“It is important that we look carefully at how the police chose to respond to contact from Mary Griffiths prior to her death. We will therefore carry out a full and independent investigation into the police response, and we will make our findings public as soon as possible.”

A spokeswoman for Suffolk police said it was unable to comment on the case until the IPCC investigation had concluded.

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