A former headteacher has been jailed for a minimum of 31 years for murdering his estranged wife and her lover on New Year’s Day.
Rhys Hancock killed Helen Hancock and Martin Griffiths at the former marital home in Duffield, Derbyshire, and called police to say: “I’ve just murdered my wife in her bed.”
Derby crown court heard that the defendant, 40, was found outside the property in a bloodstained shirt just after the murders. He told a police officer: “I’m hardly going to deny it. Look at me.”
Hancock, a father of three, inflicted 66 injuries on his wife using two kitchen knives he had taken from his mother’s house in Etwall. Griffiths received 37 injuries.
The court heard that before travelling the 10 miles to his former marital home, Hancock told his mother of his plans.
The prosecutor, Michael Auty QC, told the sentencing hearing: “There is no escaping these murders were premeditated, they were savage, the attack was merciless, there were elements of sadism and the intention was always … and only to kill. Perhaps above all else, they were committed in the coldest of blood.”
The defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of murder at a previous hearing.
Sentencing Hancock to life with a minimum term of 31 years on Thursday, the judge Nirmal Shant QC said: “This was substantially pre-meditated and pre-planned. You had settled on your intent to kill them both before you left your mother’s house.
“What you did that night has deprived two families of the people they love and no sentence I impose will seem adequate to them and nothing I do can fill the undoubted void that the deaths of Helen Hancock and Martin Griffiths have left in their lives.
“Your actions that night left your three children without a mother and you left Martin’s family without a son and his children without a father.”
After her son left the house, Denise Hancock called 999 on her mobile at 4.11am to say: “Please, you need to go. She has been with another man. My son found out on Friday night. He now has two knives and is on his way there.”
Rhys Hancock had taken both landline handsets with him to Duffield and had tried to locate his mother’s mobile in an attempt to prevent her from alerting the police, having told her: “I feel like I want to kill them.”
Auty said the operator “tried to persuade her to telephone Helen and warn her, but she had no idea what she would say.”
At 4.26am the defendant called 999 himself, saying: “I have just stabbed them..”
A police officer arrived at 4.28am and Hancock was arrested moments later after saying he had entered the property through the unlocked back door and gone upstairs to the bedroom.
In his opening statement, Auty said Hancock had been on police bail at the time of the murders after he allegedly threw something at his wife in October 2019, causing a laceration.
Clive Stockwell QC, defending, said: “The impact of his criminality on New Year’s Day has damaged the lives of many individuals. He is very alive to the fact that by his actions he has deprived his own children of the presence of their mother for the rest of their lives in the knowledge … that it was their father who inflicted that bereavement on them.”