Man who ‘strangled woman to death after 11 pints’ claimed he loved her

A man who strangled a woman to death claims he was in love with her but she didn’t want to be in a relationship with him, a court heard.

David Bestwick had drunk “10 or 11 pints” of cider before killing Maria Howarth, 44, on her sofa after walking back to her house, prosecutors said.

A court heard 60-year-old Bestwick called 999 at 3.56am on September 6, 2020, and told the operator: “I’ve just strangled my girlfriend.”

When asked why he had strangled her, he answered: “I loved her. She didn’t want me.”

Officers found Maria lying on the sofa unconscious, naked apart from her dressing gown.

She had suffered an unsurvivable brain injury due to a lack of oxygen after a cardiac arrest caused by pressure to her neck.

Maria was taken to the Northern General Hospital but her life support was withdrawn and she was pronounced dead on September 8.

Jurors at Sheffield Crown Court were told Bestwick had “been in love” with Maria for three years before the attack.

Prosecutor Richard Thyne said Bestwick was drinking with Maria and her friends at the White Swan pub in Greenhill, Sheffield, on September 5 before walking her home around midnight.

Mr Thyne told the court it appeared to have been “common knowledge” among those at the White Swan, that Bestwick wanted a relationship but Maria did not feel the same.

One witness stated Bestwick had told him Maria was using him and he had been annoyed.

Bestwick told police he had drunk about “ten or eleven pints of Strongbow” and Maria had also been drinking.

He claimed they had previously been intimate together.

He told officers they fell asleep on the sofa and he claimed that when she woke up, she wanted sex.

Bestwick told police he put his arms around Maria to “have a kiss and cuddle” as she seemed disappointed.

He claimed he found his hands around her neck and did not intend to strangle her but he said it had been like a “red mist”.

He claimed even though she did not want a relationship, he got the impression the situation would be like “friends with benefits”.

Mr Thyne said: “One of the things he said to the police whilst he was under arrest was, ‘Love or money isn’t it? Two reasons for murder’.”

Forensic evidence indicated a cellular trace on Ms Howarth’s neck was possibly from Bestwick but there were no signs of a struggle, the court heard.

No sperm was found on Ms Howarth’s body but cellular material was found on a swab taken from the defendant which could have been from attempted intercourse.

Stains found on Bestwick’s t-shirt matched Maria’s DNA.

Bestwick denies murder. The trial continues.