true crime

How a "50 Shades of Grey defence" saw a millionaire avoid prison for killing his girlfriend.

Warning: the following contains details of sexual violence.

It was around 9.30 on the morning of December 18, 2016, when millionaire British property developer John Broadhurst dialled paramedics. His girlfriend, Natalie Connelly, was lying at the bottom of the staircase in his Stourbridge home, motionless.

She’s “dead as a doughnut”, he told the operator, according to The Mirror.

“I woke up this morning, went downstairs. We had been drinking.

“She’s lying on the floor.”

“Oh God!” he said, as he pumped her chest, trying to restart her heart. “Oh God.”

Connolly, a 26-year-old mother of one, was pronounced dead that morning. She’d suffered more than 40 injuries, including a fractured eye socket, facial wounds and serious internal trauma. Her face had been sprayed with bleach. These injuries had been inflicted just hours earlier by the very man who tried to revive her. The man who described her to paramedics as “my loved one”.

The 40-year-old father of three was last week convicted of manslaughter over Connolly’s death, which he claimed occurred during consensual “rough sex”.

During the five-week trial, Birmingham Crown Court heard that the couple, who had been together for a few months, had been drinking heavily and using cocaine on December 17, 2016, before they engaged in BDSM-style sex that involved Broadhurst violently beating Connolly. Despite her injuries, despite the fact she was bleeding heavily, Broadhurst left her where she lay and went to bed.

Her official cause of death: blunt force injuries and alcohol intoxication.

John Broadhurst.

Broadhurst was initially charged with murder and grievous bodily harm, of which he claimed he was innocent. He and his legal team argued that any injuries Natalie sustained that night occurred “within the boundaries of her masochistic desires”, The Independent reported.

The prosecution instead accepted a guilty plea to the lesser charge of manslaughter, which he entered midway through the trial.

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And so, on December 17, Broadhurst was sentenced to just three years and eight months, half to be served behind bars and half on community detention. Three years and eight months.

"Outrageous," tweeted Nimco Ali, activist and co-founder of organisation Daughters of Eve after the news broke. "Women are not objects for men’s sick fantasies and this sentence is a joke.”

British MP Harriet Harman, a former Solicitor General, has publicly called for a review of the sentence. She described his refusal to admit murder as a "50 Shades of Grey defence", one in which a man justifies sexual violence by claiming the woman asked for it.

"We cannot have a situation where men kill women and blame them," she told the BBC. "No man will ever be accused of murder again if he can always say, 'Yes, she's injured, she wanted it.'

"She will never be able to say, 'No, I didn't' because he's killed her, and therefore she hasn't got a voice."

In a statement, Connolly's family said it was still coming to terms with her death two years on.

"It is now clear to us that the guilty admission made by Broadhurst shows the heartless way in which he left Natalie at the bottom of the stairs, without any concern for her dignity or wellbeing," the statement read.

"He has demonstrated what a callous, disrespectful person he really is, and has never publicly apologised or shown any remorse for the cruel way in which he left my daughter.

"Natalie was in the prime of her life and if Broadhurst had got the medical help from the emergency services at the time of this incident, Natalie may still be alive today."

The statement described Connolly as "a loving and caring daughter, granddaughter, and sister, but above all she was a loving mother to her 10 year old daughter".

"As a family we all have to ensure that Natalie's daughter grows up, knowing how much we all loved her Mummy and the very tragic and unnecessary way in which her life ended."

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