The Times

April 12, 2002

Jan Charlton leaves Leeds Crown Court yesterday. She denies murder and claims she killed her lover in self-defence

Lover 'was hacked to death' after sex game

By Russell Jenkins
The Times

A FORMER call girl hacked her wealthy businessman lover to death with a double-handed axe because she feared he was about to ditch her for another woman, Leeds Crown Court was told yesterday.

Jan Charlton, 36, enticed Danny O’Brien, 41, into the bedroom of his luxury home in Midgley, Wakefield, for sex and, wearing only stockings and suspenders, struck him with the axe 20 times on the head and neck as he knelt naked, bound, blindfolded and gagged.

She then draped white fishnet stockings and a leopard skin suspender belt over the bloody handle of the murder weapon, which was embedded in her lover’s head, as part of an extensive cover-up, and then “stage-managed” the discovery of his body by her four-year-old daughter, Amy.

Six weeks later she confessed to being the killer. She insisted, however, that she killed him in self-defence, in terror at his sexual depravity, and in fear of both her and her daughter’s safety. She denies murder.

The prosecution told the jury that the blonde single mother was a “callous killer, a consummate actress” who carried out a planned killing on the man who no longer loved her. She feared losing her new-found luxury lifestyle and home.

Paul Worsley, QC, opening for the prosecution, told the jury that the couple enjoyed an unconventional relationship. Both were highly sexed and enjoyed intense or bizarre sex with “all sorts of people in all sorts of places”.

He said Mrs Charlton had turned to escort work in January 2000 after her marriage failed and registered as “Natasha” with an agency that posted her details on the Internet. The couple had met nine months later when the divorced Mr O’Brien, a successful businessman, who had recently sold his household product repair company answered her advertisement.

Within a month, she had given him a cheque for £60,000, her share in the marital home, and installed herself and her daughter in his modern, detached home. Seven months later, the court was told, Mr O’Brien had tired of her and was trying to move her out. She wanted her money back and “much more” to compensate her for loss of her home.

On the day before his death, the postman heard the couple rowing. On the same day, Mr O’Brien secretly met his new lover at Chatsworth, the stately home in Derbyshire, and they had made love in the grounds. Mr Worsley said: “It is suggested by the defendant that Danny O’Brien was sexually depraved. Jan Charlton was a very willing participant in what you may conclude is all sorts of sexually depraved behaviour with all sorts of people in all sorts of places.

“The prosecution submit,” he said, that “the reason for killing Danny O’Brien was different to the one she told to police. She knew their relationship had come to an end.”

Mrs Charlton, formerly of Middleton, in Manchester, sat expressionless in the dock, conservatively dressed in a blazer and her blonde hair primly swept back in a pony tail. Earlier, the court was told that she had set about constructing an alibi after the murder. She drove to a friend’s house to pick up one of her daughter’s friends for a trip to the park. They returned in time for the arrival of her ex-husband for an access visit. Before leaving, she told Amy to go inside the house and say goodbye to Danny. “Amy was reluctant, so the defendant went into the house with Amy,” Mr Worsley said.

“They were only inside the house for a short time when Tony Charlton heard the defendant screaming and banging on the landing window, shouting for help.

“Draped over the top of of the axe head was a suspender belt and a pair of white fishnet stockings,” Mr Worsley said. “On his wrists were a pair of handcuffs, which had become separated, in his mouth was a rubber ball in the form of a gag secured around the neck with a collar. “He was wearing a blindfold and under his neck was a black stocking, and on the bed nearby was a leather whip.”

The pathologist said that he had been struck with 20 blows to the head, neck and shoulders heavy enough to shear wood chips from a door frame and slice through the carpet.

Four days after the murder Mrs Charlton gave her first version of events to police. He had become “frisky” and suggested going upstairs for sex, where he stripped naked, she said. She had thrown off her bikini and put on fishnet stockings and a leopard-skin-effect suspender belt. Mrs Charlton told officers that her partner was keen to use sex toys, including handcuffs, latex gloves, whip and poppers, chemical capsules used to enhance sexual pleasure. She told police: “He liked to talk filth and fantasise. He wanted me to talk filth with him.”

However, the sex session was interrupted when Amy walked up the stairs. In the following days, Mrs Charlton gave different versions of events to friends. She told one friend: “I cannot believe this happened. Who could have done such a thing?” She told another that, with her lover’s death, she had missed out on a “f****** £20,000 diamond ring”. “I have also missed out on a f****** beautiful white dress,” she said. Five days after the murder, Mrs Charlton asked to see her lover’s body in the Leeds Infirmary mortuary.

When she was led into the mortuary, she told him: “You poor bastard, we will get the bastards who did this, my love. I love you.” She ran out screaming.

Six weeks after the murder Mrs Charlton walked into a police station and confessed to officers that she had killed her lover in self-defence and under provocation. She claimed that she and her partner had gone upstairs for sex during the afternoon, and he had threatened to kill her, and made extreme sexual threats involving her daughter.

She had fished out the sex toys to divert his attention. Mrs Charlton told the police: “Do you not understand, there was no way he was going to have my daughter or get me.” Mr Worsley said that Mrs Charlton planned the killing and tried to cover her tracks. She had gone down to the garage to collect the axe which she then hid in the en suite dressing room of the master bedroom. Mr Worsley said: “It was she who seduced Danny O’Brien, no doubt a very willing partner, to go to the bedroom on that afternoon. When he was naked, blindfolded, gagged and handcuffed, she brought down the axe repeatedly on his head.

“When her daughter, disturbed no doubt by the thuds made by the axe, came upstairs, Jan Charlton put on her bathroom robe, perhaps in haste, inside-out, to reassure her daughter who went back downstairs while she carried on with her grisly task.

“When she was finished, he was dead. She removed her white fishnet stockings and threw them on top of his body, in or around his head.

“Then, as if nothing had happened, she took her daughter out of the house to the park.”

The trial continues.

Copyright 2002, Times Newspapers Ltd.